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Thursday, December 2, 2021

One in six UK automotive jobs under threat, says SMMT

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One in six jobs in the UK automotive industry are at risk, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which is calling on a restart package for the industry to aid recovery.

More than 6,000 UK job cuts have been announced in June, a result of lockdown, closed markets and factories, while a third of automotive workers remain on furlough. The one-in-six figure is based on an average of declared numbers of permanent jobs at risk from all respondents of an SMMT survey carried out this month.

SMMT is calling on government to address this with a support package intended help drive demand and ease cash flow. It suggested measures including “unfettered access to emergency funding, permanent short-time working, business rate holidays, VAT cuts and policies that boost consumer confidence”. Such measures “would accelerate a sustainable restart for the market and manufacturing – a pre-requisite to the recovery phase,” said the SMMT, adding it would also unlock investment needed to drive a green future for the UK, 

Notably, the calls don’t specifically mention the much-talked-about scrappage scheme, although such a scheme would fall under “policies that boost consumer confidence”. It has previously been reported that the government was planning a scheme to offer new car buyers incentives of up to £6000 to switch from older petrol and diesel cars to new electric or hybrid vehicles, but this was later described to the Financial Times as “unlikely” by a government source.

Speaking today at the annual SMMT Summit, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “UK Automotive is fundamentally strong. However, the prolonged shutdown has squeezed liquidity and the pressures are becoming more acute as expenditure resumes before invoices are paid. A third of our workforce remains furloughed, and we want those staff coming back to work, not into redundancy.

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“Government’s intervention has been unprecedented. But the job isn’t done yet. Just as we have seen in other countries, we need a package of support to restart; to build demand, volumes and growth, and keep the UK at the forefront of the global automotive industry to drive long-term investment, innovation and economic growth. Support delivered now is an investment in the future of one of Britain’s most valuable assets… investment that we will repay many times over.”

SMMT also reiterated its insistence for a no-deal Brexit, asking for certainty that a full, zero-tariff deal will be in place by the end of the transition period. 

Hawes said, “Covid has consumed every inch of capability and capacity and the industry has not the resource, the time nor the clarity to prepare for a further shock of a hard Brexit. That’s why we do need to ‘turbo charge’ the negotiations to secure a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU that maintains tariff and quota free trade… With such a deal, a strong recovery is possible, we can safeguard the industry and our reputation as an attractive destination for foreign investment and a major trade player.”

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