Commenting on figures released today (Thursday 30 July) by the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showing that UK automotive production during the first half of 2020 is down to the lowest level since 1954, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: 

“Buffeted by the twin forces of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing challenges Brexit poses to the sector, the future of the UK’s world leading automotive sector and the thousands of well-paid and skilled jobs that come with it, is in doubt.

“These historic lows in production show the industry is standing at a crossroads: Either the government leaves it to become a shadow of its former self or provides the support and investment needed for it flourish as a producer of the next generation of cleaner cars.   

“UK vehicle manufacturers have a vital role to play in the country’s, and indeed the world’s, transition to low carbon, but they cannot do this until the government lays the groundwork.

“It is clear that in the immediate term the nation is not yet in a position to switch to the widescale use of electric cars. To allow the industry time to pivot to new technologies and to take decisive steps in lowering the carbon footprint and air pollution, support must be given for the purchase of UK-built low-emission internal combustion engines and hybrid vehicles.

“At the same time, the government needs to enact a comprehensive programme of investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, including expanding the network of fast charging points, and the UK-based manufacture of vehicles and components. It cannot be stressed enough that this must include developing electric transit-sized vans for commercial use.

“Thousands of jobs have already been lost, and thousands more are at risk, hurting communities and diminishing the capacity, skills and experience the sector is built on. The simple truth is that we need the automotive industry and its workers if the UK is to turn the challenges ahead into successes. 

“The German government has taken action, it’s support for short time working during the fall out from the financial crash in 2008 safeguarded 450,000 jobs that are the bedrock of its auto-industry and along with Spain and France has announced a support package for the sector now to do so again. UK ministers must now back Britain, look to the country’s future and do the same.”


During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

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