UK motor industry lobby group Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is calling for a raft of measures to boost automotive growth ahead of the imminent British budget.

The UK’s annual spending analysis – due on 23 March – comes at an unprecedented time of fiscal austerity and which has seen VAT rise to 20% as well as a sharp spike in fuel prices, while Middle East political unrest continues to dominate the headlines.

Specifically, the SMMT is calling for pressure on banks to improve working capital access and credit guarantees, greater incentives for automotive R&D spending and greater clarity on environmental taxes.

The SMMT has also called for government to make sure tax regulations are globally competitive, as well as support the work of the Automotive Council to support its recommendation for the sector in policies and programmes.

“The manufacturing sector is leading economic recovery and government must use this budget to sustain and enhance this position,” said SMMT chief executive, Paul Everitt. “This Budget comes at a critical time for UK automotive and we’re urging government to deliver the right mix.

“Better targeted and strategic use of existing policies, funding instruments and business taxation will help automotive manufacturers and suppliers in the UK realise their potential and position the UK at the forefront of future technology development.”

And with fuel at the pumps costing UK motorists an unprecedented GBP6 (US$9.70) per gallon, the SMMT has also asked for a freeze on fuel duty, as well as not raising vehicle taxes beyond levels set in last year’s budget.

Low-carbon invectives for commercial vehicles should also be implemented “urgently,” while long-term commitment should be made to low-carbon investment.

Vehicle excise duty for commercial vehicles should be asessed based on age and environmental status to incentivise the adoption of the most efficient vehicles, while what the SMMT calls the “unjustified 3% point penalty on diesel company cars should be removed.”

UK automotive represents around 3% of total UK GDP, accounts for two thirds of total manufacturing turnover and is the country’s largest sector in terms of export, generating around GBP24bn in revenue.