Brexit, coronavirus, electrification … in the UK, "the survival of the automotive industry is at stake"

In front of the Bentley Motors entrance, in Crewe (United Kingdom), on June 5.

Caught between Brexit, the shock of confinement linked to Covid-19 and the transition to electric cars, the British automobile industry is on the brink. "Her survival is at stake"Graham Hoare, Ford's president for the United Kingdom, warned on Tuesday (June 23rd) at the annual conference of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the British automotive professional organization.

As elsewhere in the world, the factories closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus epidemic and the collapse of diesel vehicle sales in recent years has caused a severe crisis. Added to this is Brexit, with the potential entry into force of customs duties to the European Union (EU) from 1er January 2021, when the transition period comes to an end. "It's a perfect storm"said David Bailey, industry specialist at the University of Birmingham. "Our industry is not able to take an additional shock with a hard Brexit", warns Mike Hawes, the director of the SMMT.

In June alone, the elimination of 6,000 jobs was announced: a thousand at Bentley, or a quarter of its workforce; 500 at Aston Martin; 1,000 temporary worker positions cut at Jaguar Land Rover, in addition to the 4,500 fewer jobs announced in January 2019 …

Read also The European automobile had a black Thursday

According to the SMMT, one third of employees in the sector are currently part-time unemployed. Ultimately, according to a survey of its members, one in six jobs in the British automotive industry is in danger, out of a total of 160,000 jobs. In 2020, with factories shutting down during containment and some that have yet to resume, vehicle production is expected to fall to 900,000, almost half the peak reached in 2017, at 1.7 million.

Fateful Brexit referendum

These difficulties on all fronts could mark the end of an era. If the United Kingdom no longer has a major car brand, it has transformed since the 1980s into a great land of welcome for foreign manufacturers. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pushed the idea a lot, triumphantly inaugurating the opening of the Nissan plant in 1986 in Sunderland, in the north-east of England. Access to the European car market, which was then highly protected by customs duties, was one of his key arguments.

You have 61.54% of this article to read. The suite is reserved for subscribers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here