The business secretary liberally sprinkled his audience with upbeat phrases such as “high value manufacturing,” “recovery of the British economy” and “vote of confidence” among a paean of praise for Toyota’s new venture.
But it seems he was being diplomacy itself to his hosts as he had a far tougher message for the UK automotive industry as a whole.
The British government appears to be adopting a similar line to its German counterparts and is quickly coming to the conclusion the car industry’s rapidly accelerating improvement means it can pretty much stand on its own two feet.
“Previous government support was fine when the industry was struggling, but now it is about creating the right environment, tax friendly and giving priority to training and apprenticeships,” a spokeswoman for the DBIS told just-auto earlier today.
Well, up to a point. It’s not clear what ” tax friendly” actually means or “priority to training” for that matter, but whatever the nuances it seems pretty clear the government doesn’t have financial largesse in mind.
But one influential industry body has fired a financial warning shot across Cable’s bows as the UK increasingly increasingly becomes a centre of excellence for low carbon vehicles.
International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies (FISITA ) chief executive Ian Dickie has called for concrete R&D funding into electric drive and battery systems and charging infrastructure as well as fiscal incentives for plug-in early adopters following Cable’s comments.
“All of these measures cost money, but without them the UK will fall far behind the rest of the world in this fast-moving and critical technology,” said Dickie.
The DBIS neatly passed that early adopters baton to its colleagues at the Department for Transport, noting it “was under review” but the very generous GBP5,000 (US$7,500) looks like it may well be scaled down.
FISITA has some legitimate concerns and is clearly acting in its members’ interests, but the new administration is not going to have any sacred cows.
Cable’s emollient words at Toyota have been replaced with something a lot tougher. The wolf has bared its teeth.