Knowledge & Insight

Promoting growth in the UK automotive sector

Tue 20 May 2014

It’s often been stated that the 1960’s marked the heyday of UK car manufacturing, and the slow decline of the sector over a number of decades has been the topic of great debate amongst policy makers and the media. Yet the automotive industry has enjoyed a strong resurgence in recent years, and bolstered by significant inward investment from overseas manufacturers, the UK produced more than 1.5 million vehicles in 2012.

It’s a trend that government seems determined to support. 2009 saw the launch of the Automotive Council, a collaborative partnership between government and industry, and in 2013 this initiative was augmented by a new strategy designed to promote sustainable growth in the UK automotive sector. The strategy focuses on 4 key areas.


As engine technologies evolve at an increasingly rapid rate, the opportunity for companies that can deliver new technical advances is enormous. The UK has a long and proud history of technological innovation, yet our talented engineers and scientists haven’t always enjoyed the support they require in turning their great ideas into commercial success. So in addition to investment in R&D to nurture innovation, technical ability must be allied to entrepreneurial acumen if this is to be converted into business success.

Supply Chain

Currently only 30% of the components used in UK vehicle assembly are manufactured here. So there’s a big opportunity for domestic companies to grow this figure and take a greater proportion of the auto components market. To help facilitate this, the government has set up a new Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO) which forms part of UK Trade & Investment. Led by Joe Greenwell, the former Chairman of Ford of Britain, and with £3 million of funding over 2 years, the AIO aims to facilitate contact between UK suppliers and potential investors, and to promote further inward investment into the UK’s automotive manufacturing firms.

Business environment

One of the chief factors affecting the health of the automotive sector is the state of the general business environment. UK manufacturers compete in a market where some firms enjoy a range of support mechanisms, such as tax breaks on R&D investment, so the UK government has pledged strong support to enable domestic companies to compete on a level playing field internationally. This is critical, because with 80% of output heading overseas, the UK car industry is no longer at the mercy of fluctuating domestic demand, and it must be able to compete effectively in a fiercely competitive global marketplace.


As in any sector of the economy, the success of competing firms is a function of the skills and talents of their people. The car industry has, in the past, suffered from a shortfall in skilled technicians and engineers, and both manufacturers and government seem determined to ensure this doesn’t happen again. So plans are being put into place to develop the skills that exist within UK automotive firms and to attract more young people into the industry. Growing firms are hungry to recruit new apprentices and graduates, and they must ensure that they attract people of the right calibre, then train them not only to fulfil the demands of today, but the changing demands of the next decade and beyond.

Automotive executive recruitment

Just as technical skills are the lifeblood of the UK automotive sector, executive talent is critical to the success of individual firms, and identifying and recruiting top talent requires the services of a specialist. Stone Executive is an experienced and well-respected automotive executive search firm with a team of seasoned automotive headhunters. Their professional network spans the full length of the automotive supply chain, from niche producers to global giants, and their unique insight into the industry is key to our successful track-record in automotive executive search.

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