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Time is of the essence to guarantee growth

Published to the CV Show website on

As keen advocates of British manufacturing, SMMT’s monthly statistics for UK commercial vehicle production have been a continued source of pleasure for myself and colleagues this year, with new figures published today showing that output grew 8.6% in August – the fifth consecutive month of rising productivity. Some 6,660 units rolled off the production line out of Britain’s factories last month, representing the best volume for August in 11 years and the highest year-to-date volume since 2011 – as manufacturers continue to deliver the latest, greenest models to meet demand from operators.

The sector’s strong position today is a result of long-term commitment from manufacturers to investing in the UK, and the launch of Europe’s first dedicated zero emission LCV plant in Ellesmere Port this month is just the latest example, bringing promise for the immediate future. As SMMT’s new figures show, commercial vehicle output for the UK market increased by 24.4% in August, and it will be exciting to see these green models with ‘Made in Britain’ badges on our roads.

However, while the number of CVs that were shipped overseas last month fell slightly, by -2.0%, it is still true that our sector is export-led, with 54.0% of all output going abroad. That underlines the importance of stable, tariff-free relationships with our largest trading partners, and it will come as a surprise to few that most of our exports go to the EU. Despite this, the industry is still waiting for certainty that a UK-EU agreement can be reached to delay tougher rules of origin from 2024, which would cause significant harm to global competitiveness on both sides of the Channel.

Next year will also see the now-confirmed Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate come into effect. Manufacturers finally have clarity on what they are required to sell next year and up to 2030. The industry is investing billions in decarbonisation and recognises the importance of this mechanism as the single most important measure to deliver net zero. Delivering the mandate will challenge the industry, despite the flexibilities now included to support pragmatic, equitable delivery given this diverse sector. While manufacturers have already invested billions to bring a growing choice of models to market, fleet operators must be encouraged to make the switch, and now more than ever. A fundamental part of that challenge is the rollout of public and depot charging and hydrogen refuelling points, giving fleet operators the confidence that they can utilise these outstanding zero emission vehicles – which are already well-suited to a broad range of commercial use cases – to their full potential.

That applies to commercial vehicles and buses of all types, and while the dust might have settled on the Prime Minister’s announcement last week to push back the end of sale of pure petrol and diesel vans and cars, a plan of action for the whole commercial vehicle sector must follow soon. For instance, operators of vans, trucks and minibuses have completely different requirements to consumers that are buying a car. Time is of the essence, and it is vital that we see swift, suitable action in the months and years ahead to avoid squandering the opportunities for economic growth, jobs and further investment that our sector has to offer.


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