Midlands auto industry set to return to 70s heyday

THE Midlands automotive industry could be heading for a renaissance with production over the next decade set to mirror the heyday of car manufacturing in the 1970s.

New figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders suggest the UK could be producing in excess of two million cars within the next five years – 80% of which will be destined for export.

With the strength of the car industry in the West Midlands, the region could be one of the major centres to benefit from the growth.

Steps are already in place with the £355m production of a new engine plant near Wolverhampton by Jaguar Land Rover and the scaling up of production by the likes of BMW and GKN.

The pattern is already set; with JLR announcing it is producing 50% more vehicles now than at the same stage last year – although much of this success is due to the Halewood-manufactured Evoque, which has taken the world by storm since its launch last year.

Independent forecasters have predicted that UK automotive manufacturing could this year surpass the 1972 record of 1.92m cars produced, with over two million units rolling off domestic manufacturing lines in 2015.

While demand is still strong within the high growth economies of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, much will depend on whether demand in Europe and more especially the United States, continues to soften.

The future prospects for the UK-based automotive supply chain and the current potential to strengthen the industry’s supplier base will be the subject of a special forum at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull today.

The event has been organised by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and will discuss industry trends following the wave of investment pledged by global vehicle manufacturers during the past two years.

Speakers at the event include: Richard Parry-Jones, Automotive Council Co-Chair, Jerry Hardcastle (Nissan Europe), Automotive Council Technology Group Chair and Dave Allen (Jaguar Land Rover), Automotive Council Supply Chain Group Acting Chair.

The key issues will be whether the UK supply chain can cope with the increase in production and whether the firms have access to the funding they need in order to bid for the new contracts on offer.

Longer term issues such as a possible skills shortage within the sector will also be debated.