A report by Britain’s largest union, Unite which looks at the changes facing the UK automotive industry is urging the UK government to emulate Germany and put the UK’s car industry in the fast lane of electric vehicle technology.

The report, Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Technology and Future Mobility, which was launched today (Wednesday 14 March), warns that the biggest barrier to investment and innovation remains government inactivity.

Laying out a roadmap to retain skills and jobs through the transition from petrol and diesel to electric powertrains, the report calls for a national car scrappage scheme to promote the sustainable take up of electric vehicles.

As part of the roadmap to secure investment and remove the barriers to the next generation of vehicles, the assessment calls for an industrial plan. This includes:

  • Greater public investment in research and development
  • More investment in vital infrastructure, including charging stations, the national grid, domestic lithium extraction and battery recycling facilities
  • Support to retool, reskill and develop the UK’s automotive supply chain
  • A ‘just’ transition plan for workers in the transport and petroleum industries
  • Use of positive procurement by local and central government
  • Defending the role of safety-critical drivers in road haulage and public transport, emulating the examples of rail and civil aviation

The full report which was produced by a working group of Unite car industry representatives can be downloaded below. Writing in the foreword of the report, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The automotive sector has been a major success story of British manufacturing and our workplace reps and stewards have played an integral role in shaping that success.

“For decades the sector has been a source of good quality employment for hundreds of thousands of workers, in both major assembly sites and throughout the supply chain.

“No industry is static. The emergence of electric, internet-connected and driverless technology, herald changes unseen since the end of the horse-drawn era.

“Unite is clear. We want investment in new sustainable technology. We want to see high-skilled secure jobs on decent pay and for the UK automotive sector to hold its own against Germany, the United States, Southern Asia and China.

“The biggest barrier to investment and innovation remains government inactivity. Without proper investment in research and development, public infrastructure, procurement and public transportation, the UK will continue to lag behind.”

Commenting on the launch of the report Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Tony Burke said: “The government must do more to put the UK in the fast lane of electric vehicle technology and to secure our automotive industry’s world leading status for the years to come.

“Unite members are already building the all-electric Nissan Leaf and lithium-ion batteries, as well as hybrid engines for Toyota, Geely’s electric black cabs and hydrogen buses at Wrightbus.

“There is scope for so much more though. While BMW’s new electric Mini will be assembled in Cowley from 2019, the fact the electric powertrain and electric batteries will be imported from Germany shows the urgent need to develop UK capability.

“The government must step up and remove the barriers to UK investment and the mass take up of electric vehicles with massive investment in infrastructure and support for re-skilling and retooling.

“No worker must be left behind, which is why Unite stands firmly behind our members at the Ford diesel engine plat at Dagenham and the engine plant at Bridgend.

“These engines are already the cleanest and most efficient models of their kind. We reiterate our call to Ford that these sites must be repurposed for new electric models or battery technology.”


For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.

Notes to editors

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.