UK hailed as the only bright spot in Europe for sales

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - NEWS -

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.”

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