According to the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the UK produces around 1.5 million cars and commercial vehicles and 3 million engines, accounting for 9-11% of the UK’s total exports. The sector generates more than £55 billion in annual turnover, employs around 700,000 people and delivers around £12 billion in net value-added to the economy. There is little doubt that the UK remains key global player within the global automotive sector and that the industry is a significant contributor to the UK economy. It is therefore delightful to hear that the government’s policies to reinvigorate this sector appear to paying dividends. This Industry Week article suggests that Britain is accelerating away from its European competitors with investment flowing into the factories of Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover.
It is clear that the car sector matters from an economic point of view. However it is also vital from both an environmental and social point of view. The SMMT 2013 Automotive Sustainability Report, based on 2012 data, does a great job at showing how vehicle manufacturers are doing in their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their products and manufacturing processes.
However it underplays the importance of role that the sector plays in terms of societal impact. The sustainability report measures social impact in terms of the number of jobs dependent on the sector. While of course this is critical, it is not the only way in which the sector has on contemporary society. The automotive sector has led the way in business and management practice. The car-making sector has a long history of challenging our prevailing mind-sets and shifting the way we think. It spawned the lean movement – a movement that continues to shape business, management, leadership and operational practice. The importance and impact of the car sector is far-reaching and profound.