UK hailed as the only bright spot in Europe for sales
IF we were in France, Spain, Italy or even Germany we would be very depressed, automotively speaking – so said Mike Baunton, interim CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), at a recent gathering of motoring journalists.
In those markets car sales are down by one million. In the UK sales are up on last year – forecast to be by three per cent overall – but not nearly at the levels they were in 2002/2003 before the economic situation started to bite.
“Having said that, retailers are doing well, particularly when it comes to persuading customers to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles,” Mr Baunton said. “We are seen as the one bright spot in Europe. There are signs of a modest recovery.”
Manufacturing is expected to grow more rapidly now and become “a significant contributor” to the economy.
He cited Nissan, which has a long-established plant in Sunderland, as “the world’s most efficient car plant, making more than half a million cars annually”.
The plant also has a new £200m facility producing batteries to power the latest generation of electric cars.
“Overall, [motor] manufacturers have invested £6bn in the UK, not just in production but in the supply chain and a whole range of support services,” Mr Baunton added. “More than 20,500 new jobs have been created in the vehicle manufacture and supply chain.”
He said he was surprised the number was so high but the SMMT has a very accurate data analysis facility. By tracking all manufacturer announcements and collating information it can pinpoint where these jobs have been created. “It’s a huge success story in a period of very poor economic growth.”