Driving forces come together at Nifco

Nifco     12th January 2015

AN AUTOMOTIVE network leader and one of the most senior sector champions from central government have come together to agree terms of working that, it is hoped, will grow the region’s economy.

Tony Sarginson, who represents the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), and Lawrence Davies, from UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO), met at the facility of car parts company Nifco UK, marking the start of a dialogue that will drive the development of the region’s automotive supply chain.

The NEAA, which is a newly formed alliance bringing together representatives from businesses including Nissan and Komatsu among others has been established to help the North East to unlock its potential and grow its supply chain. The organisation, which officially launches in 2015, hopes that by bringing the right people together, it can accelerate the growth of the automotive sector in the North East – something that complements the AIO’s aim of increasing the percentage of UK produced parts that are used in cars built in this country.

Tony Sarginson, is part of the NEPIC cluster team delivering a UKTI sponsored project which is tasked to grow the economy of the North East. Tony said that the meeting with the AIO was part of an effort to ensure the NEAA is connected to the right people in industry to ensure the region can succeed in its ambitions to grow the automotive sector.

He said: ‘We already have many outstanding, world class automotive manufacturers in this part of the world – Nifco being a good example – but we have never really worked collaboratively across the sector for the greater good of the region. Our industry leaders believe that there are potentially great benefits to be gained if we were to form a strong, supportive automotive cluster that unites key players in the sector and inspires more businesses to get on board with what is a massive opportunity for the manufacturing businesses that want to grow in our region.

‘It’s vital that we also harness the support of wider reaching organisations, such as the AIO, to ensure that we bring the right minds together, and that businesses in this sector in the North East benefit from the best advice, support and assistance possible to spur on their development and growth plans.’

The meeting took place at Nifco, one of the companies that is supporting the development of the alliance. Mike Matthews, managing director of Nifco UK and European operations officer and a board member of the alliance, said: ‘The automotive sector is one that I think is hugely important to the economy in this area, and it is vital that businesses in the field become genuine champions, sharing their knowledge and experiences to ensure that other companies enter the sector.

‘The stronger entrenched the supply chain becomes in the North East, the more secure we make the sector and that is good for everyone.’

The NEAA and AIO both aim to ensure that the UK’s automotive supply chain grows. Currently only 35 per cent of parts used in UK made cars are produced in this country, compared with over 60 per cent in Germany. This is something that the AIO hopes to tackle by working with Government and the automotive industry to attract increased international investment and expertise into the supply chain.

Lawrence Davies, deputy CEO at UKTI AIO, who was a director at General Motors before joining the organization, said that there is an opportunity for the North East to really shine on a national and international stage.

He said: ‘The North East really is so, so strong when it comes to automotive, and we are keen to help the area to capitalize on the presence of major OEMs.

‘The NEAA has a vital role to play in bringing the key players in the sector together, and sharing their experience to help more and more businesses come through and spur on the development of automotive manufacturing. I am sure we will be working closely with the organisation over the coming months and years.’