Automotive research and development tax credits should be highlighted as part of next week’s (29 November) Autumn Statement by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Addressing 850 guests at last night’s (22 November) 95th SMMT annual dinner in London, new SMMT president and GKN CEO-in-waiting, Nigel Stein, called for a sympathetic hearing for automotive R&D ahead of what is sure to be a tough advance budget statement from the Chancellor, George Osborne.

“We have shown how an export-led industry such as our own can drive economic growth, but we must have the right environment in which to prosper,” he said.

Concentrating on reforming R&D tax credits, the address acknowledged the need for the country to be more competitive internationally to attract global investment.

He also called for changes to capital allowances to enable the development of SMEs and the automotive supply chain.

The new SMMT chief remained realistic however, about current difficult economic conditions – particularly in Europe – with several mature markets facing huge debt crises and a lack of consumer confidence.

“The outlook remains uncertain for 2012, but I remain optimistic about our future,” he said. “What happens in Europe is important to us – it is therefore important the UK voice is heard to ensure the right decisions are taken for us and ensure our competitiveness is not undermined by regulation.”

Next week’s economic address by the British finance minister is also bound to refer to the current high price of fuel at the pumps – with many Conservative MPs already voicing disquiet at what they see are as hugely expensive petrol at a time of economic austerity.