The UK Car Industry

The UK is home to seven volume car manufacturers, seven commercial vehicle manufacturers, nine bus and coach manufacturers, eight major premium and sports car producers and eight formula one teams. In excess of 1.5 million vehicles are produced in the UK each year and over 2.5 million engines. In addition to the manufacturers around 2,350 companies in the UK are regarded as suppliers to the automotive industry and they employ in the region of 82,000 people.

The UK is a major player in what is a global industry encompassing design and manufacture. It is also an industry requiring a high level of understanding of regulations such as safety and CO2 emissions which differ from country to country.

The UK is also home to a number of research and development faculties providing strong design and technical bases for foreign companies including Ford, General Motors, Nissan and SAIC who own the famous British marque MG.

A brief history

With origins dating back to the latter part of the 19th century, by the 1950s the UK automotive industry was responsible for the second largest manufacturing output of cars in the world (after the USA) and the largest number exported. Subsequent decades saw the UK falling behind nations such as Germany, Japan and France in car output to the point that by 2008 the UK ranked at number 12 in terms of production of cars measured by volume. Over the last two decades many foreign companies have taken ownership of a number of famous British marques. Namely Mini and Rolls Royce now owned by BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover owned by Tata, Bentley owned by Volkswagen and MG now owned by SAIC.

Developments

Advancing technology is as prevalent in the automotive industry as it is in any other. The reduction of carbon emissions is a particular focus and will continue to be an area researched and developed. Other areas of development will include the use of alternative materials and identifying renewable, environmentally friendly fuel sources. Additionally as vehicles have become more reliant on software and electronics a whole new area of expertise has been required, a demand exacerbated by customer expectations in relation to infotainment systems incorporating gaming and graphics.

Working in and getting into the industry

There are a wide range of career opportunities in the automotive industry encompassing both engineering and non-engineering roles. As with all industries opportunities exist in relation to roles in HR, finance, purchasing, PR and many others. From the engineering side of things this is a fast paced industry with initial vehicle concepts often making it to the production line within four years. In such areas of development engineers will often be part of a large team, maybe experience overseas travel and interact with cutting edge of the latest technology. For graduates formal schemes provide one route of entry into the industry. From this point careers may divert either into hyper-technical roles or into project and people management.

Challenges facing the sector

From a workforce perspective there are many challenges facing the automotive industry. Great emphasis has been placed on retaining and attracting talented individuals whilst also ensuring current and future skills are met. As with any sector there is high demand for skilled leaders and managers to drive change but businesses also need to understand the benefits of up-skilling existing staff. Increasing customer confidence and attempting to change public perception of the sector is also a challenge that businesses are looking to combat.

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