The British car industry meets the press in Paris – Meanderings through France n° 98
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Paris motor show is one of the major car fairs in Europe and eight of the UK’s major car brands chose to demonstrate the diversity and quality of cars currently produced in the UK in preview of this significant event. Senior executives from Aston Martin, BMW MINI, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mc Laren, Nissan, Toyota and Vauxhall joined by Mark Garnier MP, the British Under Secretary of State for the Department for International Trade, made an assessment of the British automotive sector.
Eight new car models were presented to the press on the left Seine bank at the foot of the Eiffel Tower by their manufacturers and by the SMMT (the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders). We were able to see the multi-purpose MINI clubman, the Aston Martin DB 11 and its new design and engine, the Mc Laren 570S and its carbon fibre chassis, the luxury Jaguar F-Pace SUV and the latest models of the Vauxhall Astra, Honda Civic, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota Yaris.
Several UK brands have an excellent reputation for decades now, but reputation is not enough to maintain and increase sales. Investment in new models and facilities is essential and more than £10 billion have gone into innovation over the past five years. This yields results: British-built cars have never been so popular with a record 1,2 million vehicles exported to more than 100 countries last year and already in the first eight months of 2016 that total looks set to be beaten this year, with exports reaching almost 900,000 vehicles, 13% ahead of the same period in 2015.
Innovation is costly but also is an absolute necessity to develop, manufacture and bring to market vehicles that are cleaner, more fuel efficient, safer and more advanced every year. UK ultra-low emission car market is the second fastest growing market in Europe after Spain. Meanwhile, the UK is already earning a reputation as a global development hub for connected and autonomous cars Prospects are good, 300,000 new jobs should be created by 2030 and 25,000 accidents prevented each year.
80% of the vehicles manufactured in the UK are exported and 57% of these are sold in Europe mainly to Germany, Belgium, Italy and France. The European Union is UK’s biggest trading partner and this is the reason why Brexit is a main concern for the UK automotive industry. Future will say if UK car manufacturing will keep competitive business conditions. Once again innovation will be the key to success and developing low emission vehicles, plug-in cars and autonomous cars will be a necessity to make driving smarter, safer and cleaner.
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny