UK Automotive Industry is Constructing a Comeback

What do a Range Rover Sport, a double-decker bus, and a Jaguar F Type all have in common? The answer is surprisingly straightforward.

In typical Top Gear style, the final episode of the show’s 20th series put on quite a show when it was broadcast at the beginning of August: Clarkson, Hammond, and May rounded off the summer by bringing together a pageant of vehicles great and small from across the country to congregate in The Mall, London. This impressive display, which included the aforementioned Range Rover, bus, and Jaguar, was an act of homage to the often-forgotten UK automotive manufacturing industry, which provided the thread through which every car, tractor, F1 car, and lorry (amongst others) present that day was connected.

It is not often that the spotlight shines on our manufacturing sector, and many of the facts pointed out by the show’s presenters would have surprised its audience: as Clarkson says, ‘today, a new car rolls off a production line somewhere in Britain every twenty seconds’, and our numbers are way up over those of other European countries, whose figures continue to slip.  In fact, reports this week state that manufacturing activity in the UK is at a two-year high and further growth is expected in the next quarter.

So what has made the difference here, and why is our recovery emerging so much more readily than elsewhere? There are a number of contributing factors, of course, but what comes up time and again is the value placed on quality. The UK is by no means the cheapest place to build on a large scale, and indeed several companies have flocked to less expensive shores to cut their construction costs. This is not, however, how everyone does business; what has kept the world’s most prestigious brands in Britain is its well-deserved reputation for skill, its culture of innovation, and its commitment to maintaining the highest standards. To this end, we have seen a ‘transformation of Britain’s automotive industry from low-skilled volume production to high-end niche manufacturing,’ and a prediction by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) asserting that ‘automotive manufacturing levels are set grow to pre-recession levels by 2014.’

The industry is making sure it doesn’t get left behind in the race to go green, either. Despite the apparent conflict between traditional means of transportation and sustainability, the twinning of these sectors is becoming increasingly common and has already been used to great effect; carbon strategies, waste-to-energy plants, and PV arrays are becoming a standard part of the process when building new facilities. In addition, the industry has now joined forces with the Government to invest £1bn in a research centre that will focus on the development of low-carbon initiatives, carrying our vehicles through into a future where petrol and diesel engines are predicted to have disappeared by 2040. All of these points lead me to think that perhaps it’s time for the nation to take a fresh glance at an industry that should be applauded for its forward-thinking and its substantial contribution to the regrowth of our wider economy.

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As Chairman of the Rolton Group, Peter provides high-level strategic advice to a range of governmental, public sector and commercial clients. He is an acknowledged specialist in the renewable energy sector, and there is good reason for this: when it comes to energy, Peter is clear about the issues we face and the need for a cohesive strategy to tackle them. He is a passionate advocate of informed debate, and has consistently brought clarity to this complex situation."If the UK is united on one thing about energy it is that, on an individual basis, the public knows what it’s not in favour of. When it comes to offering up solutions, it’s not that confident. Pointing at single solutions like wind farms and saying that they are too expensive is missing the point. Carbon-based forms of energy like oil and gas are running out. Energy is going to be more expensive and a portfolio of renewable energies will necessarily be part of our solution in the future." Peter holds particular expertise in the areas of site-wide energy planning, zero carbon power generation, low carbon design, carbon offsetting and the application of renewable technology. He has acted as a Government advisor on numerous consultations and white papers, presenting to the Secretary of State on a number of occasions on the subject of renewable planning and public sector engagement. He has worked as a strategic partner with some of the world’s largest and most successful blue-chip companies, and is a Director of Renewables East, the renewable energy agency for the east of England.Peter is both a chartered building services engineer and a chartered member of the Institute of Energy, and has gained accreditation under the Carbon Trust Consultant Accreditation Scheme for solution development, with particular expertise in the establishment of energy strategies. He founded his first business, Rolton Services Consultants Limited, in 1989, and founded Cool Planet Technologies, a specialist renewable energy delivery partner which was sold to British Gas in 2010. He has been the architect of the path through which Rolton Group has addressed the challenges of renewables, carbon and the built environment."We need to see the bigger picture and not become hung up on individual technologies and individual costs. We need a completely different technology mix and not a reliance on one form of energy supply. We need all forms of technology to be applied – and we need it to happen quickly."

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