The UK’s small series and specialty vehicle sectors are the most diverse in the world, according to a new report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The UK is a world leader in manufacturing high quality, low volume vehicles such as 250 mph hypercars, campervans, sedans, electric taxis, RVs, wheelchair accessible vehicles, hearses and high performance, sports and luxury models.
In addition to some of the most famous and sought-after car brands in the world, the UK also has an undisputed strength in vehicle conversion and is home to Europe’s leading conversion company, the report said.
The “living” sector grossed £ 4 billion last year and employed 15,000 people in “highly skilled, well-paid positions” to produce 28,000 vehicles amid the global pandemic.
Most, 87%, were exported, mainly to the EU, USA, Asia and the Middle East.
The sector spent £ 625 million on research and development last year, resulting in the UK’s first recycled carbon fiber electric vehicle and the UK’s first all-electric hypercar.
Such small-volume and specialty manufacturers have often pioneered new technologies for high-volume road vehicles, such as aerodynamic designs, lightweight construction, and safety concepts, which were often refined on the racetrack before being introduced into mass vehicle production.
A “significant percentage” of the parts and components used in vehicles manufactured by the industry are sourced locally and the added value of some remodeling companies can be £ 15,000 for a single vehicle.
The looming end of sales of new internal combustion-engined cars and vans in the UK and EU in 2030 poses given their above-average production cycles, tight profit margins and the occasional difficulty in accessing new technology from third-party suppliers rather than developing it in-house, the SMMT said.
“The significant cost of this transition, combined with the race for ever greater connectivity in modern vehicles, means that many of the brands in this sector are facing acute development challenges without the economies of scale – and deeper pockets – that mass market manufacturers would enjoy.”
These small manufacturers typically each produce fewer than 10,000 vehicles per year for global markets, but are subject to the same regulatory framework and schedules as the volume providers. That is why they need suitable support in order to be successful on the ‘path to zero’. ”
Mike Hawes, CEO of SMMT, said, “The UK has a world-class automotive sector and its many small-scale and specialty manufacturers are among its most valuable assets. The industry is at a critical moment as companies move swiftly into a zero emissions future and we need to protect and preserve the diversity of these companies that make UK industry shine.
“Fundamental to the competitiveness of the sector is the need to ensure that any regulation is appropriate and reflects the unique circumstances of these low volume manufacturers of high value. This is especially important as we are negotiating new trading terms with major overseas markets, many of which would be jealous of our strengths in this sector. In addition, given the ongoing technological change, like the rest of the industry, these companies need specific retraining and retraining support to make them fit for the future. ”
Barrier-free access to world markets was also of crucial importance for such an export-oriented sector.
This sector estimates that a “significant proportion” of its employees would need further qualification or retraining by 2030, as companies switch to electronics, “therefore a focus on this area is also absolutely essential”.