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New SMMT president puts priority on turning round parts sector

Incoming Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders president Mike Baunton aims to address a number of key issues during his term. Baunton, president of Perkins Engines Company, will succeed Vauxhall chairman Nick Reilly in the post on July 22.

Top of Baunton's list is reversing the ongoing decline and weakness of the UK component sector, which he believes could threaten the viability of vehicle manufacturing in the UK. “I'm worried that if the trend continues there will be no economic reason to build cars in the UK,” he says.

Baunton also believes the automotive industry needs to work harder to attract younger and better trained people. He claims the industry needs to do a better job of showing the good things it has achieved in terms of its impact on the environment. “We get a bad press over pollution and congestion,” he says.

Britain's world class skills in motorsport vehicle design and manufacture should also be more closely linked with the wider industry, Baunton says. “That would help with the skills issue as it would give the industry a more glamorous image.”

With the UK automotive manufacturing sector now almost entirely foreign-owned, Baunton believes politicians need to understand how investment decisions are made in Tokyo or Detroit. “We need to make the UK attractive to foreign investment,” he says.

An engineer by training, Baunton held a number of senior management posts with component manufacturers in Europe, the US and Australia before joining Perkins in 1995. He is also president of FG Wilson, and vice president of Caterpillar, responsible for the Compact Power Systems Division.

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