Events > IAA 2019

IAA International Motor Show


row-start col-xs-12 row-end no-pad-bottom-section

About UK automotive sector

Welcome to an automotive pioneer 

The UK is the ideal location to develop and manufacture future generations of electrified, lightweight and connected vehicles. The UK offers:

  • A highly competitive economy (World No. 8, World Economic Forum)
  • The most flexible labour force in Europe and the best country in Europe for industry/university co-operation (Automotive Council survey, 2018)
  • Advanced technology, including leading research universities, world’s largest motorsport cluster, leading automotive engineering consultancies
  • Major government investment into automotive (£2 billion plus) with spending priorities guided by the industry.


The UK is concentrating investment into three key areas:

Low Carbon Propulsion

The UK is home to the Advanced Propulsion Centre, a global centre of excellence, with a budget of £1 billion over 10 years. The growing reputation of UK powertrain expertise has attracted major industry players, such as BMW. Bosch and Hofer Powertrain, to develop electrified powertrains in Britain.

The UK is responsible for many of the leading innovations in this area. The first electric supercharger (used on the Audi SQ7) was designed and developed in the UK, and British companies are developing new types of powertrains, including micro-turbines for range extender hybrids and low-cost fuel cells.


Advanced Materials

The UK developed the first carbon-fibre composites for Formula 1. It has developed this expertise for low/medium volume production (e.g. the new facility built by McLaren to produce up to 10,000 bodyshells per year), and the UK is extending this knowledge into high volume composites manufacturing. 

The UK has a great deal of expertise in aluminium technology, being home to Jaguar Land Rover, the world’s most aluminium-intensive car manufacturer. 

Britain also discovered graphene, which will become an important way of strengthening materials while minimising weight, and which offers intriguing possibilities for electrification.


Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

The UK has established Europe’s most progressive regulatory environment. CAVs are permitted on any UK road, providing that they follow the industry’s own code of practice, and that the vehicles have public liability insurance. The UK has passed the world’s first CAV insurance legislation, setting out procedures to be followed in the case of accidents. 

The UK consistently ranks as the leading major European country in international surveys of CAV readiness (UN. WEF, KPMG, etc.)



A supply chain prepared for the future

The local content of UK-made cars rose from 36% in 2011 to 44% in 2017, and continues to increase. 18 of the Top 20 Tier One suppliers have a base in the UK, providing a broad-based, internationally competitive supply chain.

UK car manufacturers have identified an additional £4 billion of annual component purchasing they would like to buy from UK suppliers. Their ability to do so is compromised by UK component plants already running close to, or at full capacity. This provides a significant opportunity for investors setting up in the UK.
More importantly, the UK is preparing for the future, with major investments announced in the last two years:

The £274 million Faraday Challenge to develop the next generation of batteries for EVs is now underway. A £78 million follow-up plan has recently been announced to develop EV motors, drives and power electronics. This is in addition to the 10-year £1 billion investment in the Advanced Propulsion Centre which started in 2013. The Battery Scale-Up facility at Warwick enables companies to test, develop and manufacture new battery cells and new battery packs without having to invest in their own capital equipment. Britain has a unique interest in this area: as the inventor of the lithium ion battery, the UK wants to invent the next generation of batteries.

The UK is investing tens of millions of pounds in technology for aluminium with the new Advanced Metals Processing Centre in West London, and expansions of composites research facilities in Sheffield and Strathclyde, Scotland. 

£200 million is being spent on building four new dedicated CAV testbeds. The testbeds cover closed facilities, semi-public environments and public roads. 

The UK also has a large number of emerging companies in the EV supply chain, of which these are a small sample:

  • YASA, a world-leading supplier of high power, lightweight traction motors
  • Hero Hewland, a JV between UK transmission specialist Hewland and Indian manufacturer, Hero, to mass-produce EV transmissions and drive units
  • Hyperbat, a JV between Williams Advanced Engineering and UK Tier One, Unipart, to manufacture EV battery packs.


A Nation of Automotive Innovators

The great advantage of the UK is not simply the amount of money being spent: it is the R&D ecosystem that ensures the money produces the right outcomes.

The UK has four of the Top 10 research universities in the world (and all of the top research universities in Europe).
Through the network of High Value Manufacturing Catapults, the UK has established the closest working relationship between universities and companies developing new technologies. The UK is now widely seen as the model of industry-academic collaboration.

“Motorsport Valley®” is the world’s largest motorsport cluster. More importantly, it is increasingly using its world-leading engineering talent to provide technology for road cars. Companies such as McLaren Advanced Technologies and Williams Advanced Engineering are now major technology suppliers to the global car industry.

The government has ensured that the centre of UK CAV development is in the same region as Motorsport Valley®, to capitalise on this expertise.

The CAV cluster can also take advantage of the UK’s leading position in computing. UK companies such as DeepMind and Improbable are world leaders in AI. 

The UK has one of the largest networks of automotive engineering consultancies. From global companies such as Ricardo to emerging specialists such as RML and Delta Motorsport, the UK is playing a growing role in developing new technology for the global car industry. 

Even though vehicle electrification is still in its early stages, the UK already has a number of achievements:

  • Europe’s first large-scale battery factory (Nissan, Sunderland)
  • European centre for Toyota hybrid powertrain production
  • First European-designed EV to win Car of the Year (Jaguar I-Pace)