Around fifty years ago, the United Kingdom was one of the largest vehicle manufacturers and exporters in the world. However, over the next few decades, the industry went into decline as competitor nations including France, Germany and Japan started to produce cheaper, more reliable and ultimately better cars.
The majority of British car marques, which had previously produced iconic and much-loved vehicles, were being acquired by foreign companies. Therefore, manufacturing moved elsewhere and the industry’s future looked bleak.
But over the past five years or so, things have picked up and today, automotive activity in the UK is booming. Some people believe this is a dwindling industry, but the success of premium British brands and increased foreign investment is gradually turning things around and fuelling future growth.
British car marques success
Even though the decline of the automotive industry could be attributed to cheaper labour costs abroad, the UK’s skilled workforce has been spearheading its recovery. The premium and exclusive nature of British brands such as Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce require a bit more care and attention than mass production techniques, which are used to make everyday vehicles quickly and efficiently.
As a matter of fact, all of the aforementioned marques achieved unsurpassed sales in 2013, as demand at both home and abroad continued to soar. Bentley witnessed a 19 per cent rise in global orders, Rolls-Royce posted record sales for the fourth year running while Jaguar Land Rover achieved their best ever performance in 38 international markets.
As a result, Bentley is planning to invest approximately £800m and create an additional 400 jobs at its facility in Crewe. Rolls-Royce intends to hire a further 100 staff at its plant in Goodwood while Jaguar Land Rover’s new engine manufacturing centre will create 600 new roles over the next four years in Wolverhampton.
Ongoing foreign investment
The UK’s high-quality personnel, modern manufacturing systems and supportive government policy has not gone unnoticed by foreign manufacturers either, who continue to invest in the country’s automotive activity. Over the past year, the industry received more than £450m worth of foreign investment for 80 projects, which also created 5,600 jobs in the sector.
Along with a great deal of money, brands like Honda, Nissan and Toyota have also brought improved management techniques, high levels of efficiency and best global practices with them, which has only enhanced Britain’s production capacity.
Today, the UK plays host to seven volume car manufacturers, eight major premium and sports car producers as well as over 100 specialist brands. Every year, 1.5 million vehicles and 2.5 million engines are produced here and the industry’s annual turnover is around £60bn.
As for the future, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says that car manufacturing volumes are on course to break all-time records by 2017. So while some believe the industry was dead and buried a long time ago, they couldn’t be further from the truth.