Brexit Still Threat to UK’s BEV Industry, Warns SMMT

Brexit has been a major stumbling block for investment in BEV technology for the UK’s automotive industry.

Now industry representative, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is calling for urgent government action to stop the BEV industry falling any further back in the race towards an electrified transport future. The call by SMMT chief Mike Hawes comes after the Financial Times reported that Chinese BEV maker BYD, the world’s biggest seller of electric and hybrid cars, is shunning investment in the UK citing the logistics issues posed by Brexit and committing to build its first vehicle production plant outside Asia on the European continent.

Speaking to the BBC’s early morning Business TV program, Hawes acknowledged that while Europe boasts around 35 automotive battery gigafactory plants in the process of either being built or starting production, the UK has just one near the Nissan plant in Sunderland. He said the UK must rebuild its reputation as a sound place to invest in new technology.

He said: “We need to ensure we have the most competitive framework possible. It’s not all about money, it’s around planning restrictions, it’s around investment in gigafactories but also it’s about supporting the supply chain. It’s not just about making the cars, you need to transform the supply chain that goes with it.” However, with the current barriers to trade with the UK’s biggest trading partner, the European Union, it’s clear there will have to be a substantially better trading deal than that has left the automotive industry struggling to match its just-in-time production strategy of the pre-Brexit period.

Hawes added: “The uncertainty around Brexit has caused investment to pause when we saw four to five years of declining investment. As soon as we got a deal, it did unlock some of that investment and what that BYD statement is talking about is around some of the political and economic instability we’ve had. It’s that golden rule of investment – give us stability, give us certainty and make sure that investment is there for the long term. We need to get back to where we were as an attractive investment destination.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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