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Automotive Industry in the UK is Alive and Well

Corus Automotive : 30 October, 2005  (New Product)
Professor Garel Rhys addresses leading figures from UK automotive supply
chain. Need to invest in R&D to stay competitive. Technical innovation key to
future success
The automotive industry in Britain is alive and well and still a major
global player, Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive
Industry Research, told delegates at a seminar looking at the future of the
UK automotive industry, hosted and organised by Corus, a leading material
supplier to the industry.

The annual event attended by representatives from many of the UK's leading
automotive tier-1 suppliers was held at Corus' Port Talbot plant on Thursday
13 October.

Professor Rhys stressed to delegates that 28 per cent of UK car plants'
output was bought in Britain and that over 72 per cent was exported. 'The
automotive industry accounts for 9.5 per cent of UK manufacturing exports by
value and UK factories turn out 3 per cent of the global production and 9
per cent of European production, with ?8.5 billion value added to the UK
economy. It is the foreign buyer who keeps the UK factories going, not the
home market,' added Professor Rhys.

Nissan in Sunderland, Toyota in Derby and Honda in Swindon are the top three
car plants in Europe and envied in other parts of the Continent. Professor
Rhys added: 'With much attention given to the recent collapse of the MG
Rover Group, it's easy to forget that the UK automotive manufacturing
industry still involves 3,200 businesses employing over 215,000 people'.

In particular, the jewel in the crown in UK automotive manufacturing is
diesel and petrol engine production. 'A quarter of Ford's total global
engine production output is here in the UK', added Professor Rhys. In
addition, the UK leads in motorsport technology and development and is also
renowned the world over for educating, producing and nurturing some of the
automotive industry's very best designers.

Professor Rhys said that what Britain had to do to keep ahead of competitors
was to lead in areas of testing and technology and he urged major suppliers
at the seminar to spend more on research and development to give added value
to the products.

Professor Jon King, director of Corus Automotive, agreed and told delegates
that product innovation was the key to future success and that if the UK and
European automotive industry wanted to keep ahead of developing countries
such as China, then firms need to double investment in research and

He urged component suppliers at the seminar to work with Corus from concept
to creation of products as he felt all participants in a venture could learn
from one another and thereby compete far more efficiently in world markets.
'Although there is partnership in the automotive industry at vehicle
manufacturing level I don't think it extends sufficiently down the supply
chain. UK suppliers working in partnership with us, can benefit from our
material expertise to provide solutions to the cost, weight and reusability
challenges car makers face today.'

Professor Garel Rhys concluded: 'There are problems but the UK automotive
industry is far from dead and the only question is what it will look like a
few years from now? There are signs for hope.'
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