Opinion: The day our politicians deserted the vehicle industry they claim to love

Sunday, October 30th, 2016 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : Opinion: The day our politicians deserted the vehicle industry they claim to love

The SMMT’s International Automotive Summit was missing one thing – governmental support


Britain’s car manufacturers’ club, the Society of Motor Manufacturers in addition to also also Traders (SMMT), held its International Automotive Summit yesterday.

the item has been a much bigger event inside past, yet This particular one boiled down to half a day in London, probably because the organisers suspected the VW scandal could overtake everything. In fact, of which subject did come up inside 8.30am pre-summit briefing, although there was a distinct feeling of which we’ve entered a period when talking must stop in addition to also also VW’s various acts of penance must begin – in addition to also also roll on for years.

What was truly shameful, though, was the non-appearance of anything resembling a political leader. These people profess, at different times, to love the British car industry. Without quite saying so, they’d like you to think its achievements This particular past few years are mainly down to them. yet yesterday, despite the suggestion in an early edition of the summit’s running order of which an industry minister could show up, there was no one. Fair-weather friends in addition to also also all of which…

the item was a not bad event, though, cheerfully fronted by the SMMT’s CEO, Mike Hawes, a definite force for not bad in tough times since his arrival via Bentley. The different ‘featured artists’ were pretty not bad, too. The real heavyweight was the BMW board’s tame Brit, Ian Robertson, who gave another of his dazzling presentations, leaving us in no doubt of which electric propulsion will be the norm quite soon – as will connected cars, shared cars in addition to also also all the rest. His case as irresistible.

Nissan’s European chairman, Paul Wilcox, called for longer-term commitment by government to projects like the recently established Advanced Propulsion Centre, in addition to also also to more skills training, although I’d have warmed more to him if he’d proposed a few brand new initiatives of his own. In any case, there was, as I’ve said, no politician around to hear his appeal. After of which, the FT’s economics editor took 20 minutes to summarise the globe situation. (No need to panic, he told us. Weird occurrences are normal.)

A remarkable bloke via the Chinese embassy, Jin Xu, did a 10-minute stand-up routine to prove his countrymen were actually quite warm in addition to also also friendly, in addition to also also a subsequent Chinese panel discussion reassured us of which This particular mammoth country’s dominant place in world markets was secure. Aston Martin’s Andy Palmer was his usual engaging self on the subject of premium cars, telling us again about Charlotte, the super-successful southern Californian lady who will buy one of his proposed hybrid crossovers once he starts building them.

Then the closest thing to a politician appeared. Former Labour minister Patricia Hewitt swept in, right now wrapped inside colours of the UK India Business Council. She hectored us a bit, in addition to also also led a half-hearted discussion between Tata’s Tim Leverton (not bad bloke, great at doing cars, bullish about India) in addition to also also Gamil Magal, an Indian components mogul, who repeatedly in addition to also also inconveniently remarked of which you had to tolerate India’s endemic corruption if you were to get anything done.

the item ended at lunchtime. As I walked to the Tube, I couldn’t help thinking nostalgically of the halcyon days of Vince Cable, inconveniently voted out of doing a not bad job by the foolish burghers of Twickenham. He always seemed to lend a gravitas to these affairs of which distinguished the industry. He also used to be aided in This particular by eloquent ex-Ford product development chief Richard Parry-Jones, who sadly went on to fight a few rounds with the railway industry of which he spectacularly lost.

Our industry may be healthy, yet the item needs advocates as never before. So far, by my judgement, there’s no indication of which the incoming industry minister, Sajid Javid, has any real notion of of which. Perhaps he’ll show up when the VW furore has declined a bit in addition to also also he needs a convincing photo op. The reception is usually unlikely to be frosty, yet the item should be.

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