Leading the Charge

Erika Marshall     5th June 2018

THE GOVERNMENT’S ambitious plan to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 could provide a major shot in the arm to the region’s automotive sector, according to Nifco UK managing director Mike Matthews MBE.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS) recently met with BMW, Nissan, Toyota and Chinese automaker BYD UK in Westminster to outline plans to switch to electric vehicle manufacturing.

The aim was to examine how the UK can maximise the economic opportunities of electric vehicle manufacture and what more can be done by the Government to support the industry and ensure it meets the 2040 target of phasing out sales of petrol and diesel vehicles.

The debate outlined the opportunities and challenges facing manufacturers, which are important topics in our region as the Sunderland-built Nissan LEAF is now one of the world’s best-selling electric vehicles.

BMW hinted during the debate that it could be set to bring battery manufacturing to the UK in the not too distant future, which could provide another major boost to the sector.

However, the companies also warned of the challenges facing the switch to electric – from battery life span to low domestic demand and increased competition from overseas.

The group was right to air concerns over Government plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040, in my opinion, and I am sure a great many others will agree. Changes of such scale, as with any industrial shake-up, are always going to be challenging and we will need to work with the Government to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Our sector has always had a heavy focus on producing petrol and diesel vehicles, so it’s naturally going to be a huge change for manufacturers to embrace.

Nifco was one of the North East manufacturers selected for the supply chain for Nissan’s iconic LEAF when production began in 2013 and this experience will help us, along with many other North East manufacturers, capitalise on the opportunities that will arise from the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles.

Nissan has committed to producing its next generation LEAF in Sunderland and the continued investment by OEMs such as Toyota, BYD UK and BMW, among others into the UK, could potentially open up a whole host of new opportunities for the region’s manufacturers.

For example, at Nifco, as one of a number of North East manufacturers producing parts for the Nissan LEAF, we have made great strides in researching, understanding and supplying products for electric car manufacture, which can differ greatly from those produced for petrol and diesel vehicles.

Since Nissan LEAF production began back in 2013, the electric vehicles have gained in popularity, not only among environmentally-conscious drivers, but also those quick to realise the savings that can be made in fuel consumption. Nissan was the first to mass-manufacture an electric car, and the LEAF is now one of the world’s best-selling EVs, which is a magnificent success story for the region. There is no reason why we can’t build on this and mirror its success going forward.

If one thing is certain, the switch to producing electric vehicles will mark the beginning of a new era for the UK automotive industry.

And if we work together as a sector, there is no reason why the North East cannot lead the charge and continue to compete on the global stage.