A free-trade agreement in the face of Brexit is crucial to ensure the future of the UK automotive industry, according to Ford UK chairman Graham Hoare.
“A free-trade agreement is necessary for the viability of our businesses. We’re putting huge amounts of investment into an electric future. We’re embracing digital activities, which is another burden,” he said at today’s SMMT summit.
“We need to do everything we can to avoid that exposure and reinforce the message in every conversation we have for the survival of the auto industry. We need to steadfastly hold that view and support our government partners in delivering that aspiration.”
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, who has consistently lobbied for a free-trade agreement with the European Union, said: “Brexit is still the biggest threat to the long-term future of the industry. There would still be industry here [without deal], but it will look very different. The challenges to this industry – Covid, Brexit, electrification, autonomy – these are all happening at once and the scale of change is unprecedented.
“It’s a very agile industry. That’s why we need to work with government and other stakeholders to try and make a bright future.”
Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark, also talking at the SMMT summit, said: “The bottom line is that any that slows down components and costs us more cash and time, and anything that puts more cost to the customer, is going to reduce either profitability or demand.
“We see a significant hit from a hard Brexit, but we have put measures in place and would have to take price adjustment accordingly. A deal for our industry would be decisive in enabling us to grow and develop at the rate we have over the past ten years.”
Bentley has doubled its warehousing capacity in preparation for Brexit, an implementation which has been able to be stress-tested over the last few months due to Covid-19. “We now have between five and 10 days’ provision [compared to two before],” said Hallmark. “It costs us millions per year – millions we didn’t want to spend. We’ve used that to stockpile components.”