UK: Auto to remain high on political agenda: SMMT chief
Automotive Council dialogue valuable - Mike Hawes
UK trade association, SMMT says it has had encouraging noises from from the main British political parties they will continue to back the automotive sector.
The UK is currently embroiled in the middle of a general election campaign with voting for the House of Commons representatives scheduled for 7 May, but despite the increasing likelihood of a hung Parliament, it appears automotive will not be subject to the whims of political fancy.
"We have had assurances from the main party spokesmen they will look at aerospace and automotive - it ain't broke," SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes told just-auto at this week's Commercial Vehicles Show in the UK's second city of Birmingham.
"I am sure there will be some tinkering, but the dialogue through the Automotive Council has proven itself to be very valuable."
The Automotive Council was started through the auspices of former UK Labour Party Trade Secretary, Peter Mandelson and has won widespread praise both at home and abroad for its apolitical stance, which has continued despite the shift to a Conservative administration in 2010.
The manufacturing and automotive sectors have largely passed under the radar of mainstream campaigning as the politicians vying for the keys to 10 Downing Street prefer to concentrate on appealing voter issues such as housing and child care, but Hawes insists the sectors have been raised.
"We have a good dialogue with the main parties on manufacturing," said the SMMT chief. "There has been a sea change in attitude on that.
"Prior to the recession, there was a view the UK was a service economy. Then we had 2008 and there has been a reappraisal really in people realising you need to make things and one of the good things in this way is we make cars of good technology."
In common with many mature Western European economies emerging from what UK Prime Minister, David Cameron is calling "a great recession," the UK is experiencing a period of zero inflation with even the once-in-a-generation prospect of deflation looming on the horizon, but Hawes remains more wary of the current exchange rate situation.
"The [inflation] figures out yesterday showed zero, but a lot of that is driven by the fall in the oil price," he noted. "We are more concerned about the exchange rates and pound is relatively strong against the Euro.
"It is a bit weaker against the dollar - we have to be cognescent about that."
Hawes also added he was encouraged by the new European Commission in Brussels, with its emphasis on job creation "at the fore," as the Continent's economies try to stem and repair the former employment hemorrhage of the past few years.
"That is the rhetoric," he said. "As long as that is turned into action.
"We need a stronger Europe and hopefully the new Commission will do that."