Yes, Prime Minister. Yet another delay for Brexit was the last thing UK automakers - in some cases needlessly shut down - wanted

Yes, Prime Minister. Yet another delay for Brexit was the last thing UK automakers - in some cases needlessly shut down - wanted

Another week, another kick-the-Brexit-can-down-the-road move by the apparently paralysed UK government as a humiliated Remainer prime minister shuttled to various European capitals and Brussels before a small-hours announcement that, er, nothing had been achieved apart from yet another extension. You can imagine how the automakers who brought forward summer plant shutdowns or stockpiled a few parts just-in-case just-in-time was interrupted temporarily must have been feeling.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) understandably blasted the ongoing Brexit uncertainty for the UK's automotive sector as 'utterly unacceptable' following the overnight decision by the EU's council of ministers to agree an extension to the deadline for the UK's departure. The date for the UK's planned departure from the European Union has now been extended until 31 October - Halloween, which certain observers thought was rather fitting. The extension meant a possible 'no-deal' Brexit, which could have happened today (12 April - itself an extension from the original 29 March departure date) without an EU27 unanimous agreement for an extension, was averted.

A no-deal Brexit would mean reverting to WTO rules (with new tariffs imposed on UK exports of goods to the EU) and more border checks as the UK would be immediately outside of the EU's customs area and single market. Analysts said it could harm the smooth working of just-in-time supply chains and impose additional costs on UK companies that would harm sector competitiveness.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "While we've avoided a 'no-deal' Brexit on Friday, it is utterly unacceptable that, more than two years since negotiations started, industry still does not know what the UK's relationship with the EU will be in the coming weeks and months."

"Uncertainty has already caused serious damage – car plants are on enforced shutdown, investment has been cut and jobs lost. This cannot go on."


So would we cope in the event of 'no deal'? I've heard little positivity from the SMMT apart from a continuous bleat of 'frictionless trade' but there are others considering both scenarios. We, as represented by associate editor Matthew Beecham, spoke to Graham Little, deputy managing director of logistics specialist Evolution Time Critical to understand what might happen, how manufacturers should prepare and why they should not plan to rely on trusted emergency techniques that have so far served them well within a joined-up Europe. The short answer is 'it ain't going to be easy' in case of no-deal but smart use of both road and air transport and building up a bit of buffer stock are among the key takeaways. Bit like the old days, eh?

What's behind Toyota's announcement it would offer royalty-free licences on its portfolio of almost 24,000 hybrid-electric drivetrain patents to other carmakers at no cost from now through 2030? It's a laudable goal indeed - if such selfless corporate generosity is the sole motive, opines EV specialist John Voelker. "Looked at through another lens, Toyota's royalty-free licences - plus technical support for adoption and use of its electrification technology - can be viewed as a reaction of fear." His view is well worth a read.

Mixed results for Tata Motors' Jaguar Land Rover as the retail sales for the India-style fiscal year fell 5.8% year on year to 578,915 vehicles. Continuing weakness in China and the run out of the first generation Range Rover Evoque more than offset effects of the launch of the electric I-Pace and first full year sales of the E-Pace, Velar and updated Range Rover models. However, retail sales were up significantly in North America (up 8.1%), which enjoyed a record full fiscal year and ninth consecutive year of growth. Volume was also up in the UK (8.4%) and in general overseas markets (2.4%).

South Korea's LG Chem has raised close to US$1.56bn in overseas bonds to finance expansion of its electric vehicle (EV) battery production capacity. The debt offering was split into three tranches and was almost seven times over-subscribed. The supplier is South Korea's largest manufacturer of batteries for EVs and hybrid vehicles with a large number of domestic and overseas clients including Volkswagen-Audi and Renault-Nissan. It said it would use the funds to expand its EV battery plant capacity and other operations within the group. This came as Panasonic reportedly is scaling back a bit on cooperation with Tesla on battery plants in both the US and China, which we're watching with interest.

Ford this week shook the management tree and made Jim Farley head of all the new 'mobility' operations while Joe Hinrichs heads the more traditional automotive business worldwide. John Lawler will be deputy head of strategy while mobility chief Marcy Klevorn will retire. Officially, Farley becomes president, new businesses, technology & strategy, and will oversee strategy, smart mobility, autonomous vehicles and research & advanced engineering, corporate partnerships and global data insight & analytics. Reporting to Farley, Lawler will head corporate strategy, business development and run global data insights and analytics.

Hinrichs is officially appointed president, automotive, and will oversee global operations, including product development, purchasing, manufacturing, and marketing & sales, and the company's global business units, North America, South America, Europe, China and international markets group. Hinrichs has been set a target of a global EBIT margin of at least 8% and will also oversee both Ford and Lincoln brands. He will also run manufacturing & labour affairs, quality & new model launch, sustainability, environmental & safety engineering, information technology, customer experience, and government affairs. I guess asking 'and what do you do in your spare time?' of any of these very busy Blue Oval people might evoke a frosty response.

Finally, we have come up with yet another way to keep you informed - the new just-auto magazine (JAM). We are launching a new quarterly series of publications that will explore major themes and challenges that will reshape the automotive industry over the next decade. The idea is to give you - in a freshly devised and easy-to-digest online format - a deep-dive into a major industrial theme. It will comprise need-to-know analysis, interviews and commentary as well as guides to essential trend drivers and forecasts. There will also be regular sections summarising key automotive market developments, as well as product reviews that provide industrial context to the latest new car launches. The first issue - which is now available - looks at developments in the field of autonomous vehicles. It will include assessments of key technology enablers, timelines and major supplier activity. Issue number two will address the high-growth area of electrification ('e-mobility'), a fundamental technological shift for the automotive industry that is now underway. Pull up a coffee and enjoy.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor,

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