Continued uncertainty over Brexit is holding back the UK’s motor industry from confidently investing in the technologies, business models and expertise it will need tomorrow.
The delay is unacceptable, and the risk of departing the European Union without a trade deal has “dire” consequences for consumers, car dealers, repairers, auctions and parts distributors.
That was the message from Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) chairman Peter Johnson, as he addressed the trade body’s members’ annual dinner.
“Last year I stood here and said “get a deal done and do it quickly before the current uncertainty causes even more damage to inward investment”.
“That I am standing here with the same message this year is unacceptable - for our industry and for our country,” said Johnson.
He said the industry has survived recessions and crises and seen many changes for the better over the past century, but since 2016’s referendum its employers have needed clarity on trading and who they’ll be able to recruit to work in their showrooms, workshops and petrol forecourts.
“The retail motor industry employs over half a million people and sells over two hundred billion pounds worth of goods and services annually. We are still growing. But businesses have to be able to visualise the future major growth before committing to big ticket capital expenditure,” he added.
The RMIF wants frictionless and tariff-free trade between the UK and the other countries of the European Union.
Without a trade deal, Johnson said prices will rise as a result of the import tariffs that will be paid on vehicles and parts and future investments by OEM’s “will simply cease”.
Johnson said: “It is in everyone’s interests that a trade deal between the UK and the EU takes place.
“The alternative for our industry is dire.”
Recently several industry executives have warned of damaging consequences of a 'hard Brexit' where the UK would leave on October 31 with no deal agreed with the EU.
Brian Gilda, chairman of AM100 dealer group Peoples, said: “Only the most resilient will get through the pain barrier that’s coming over the next couple of years if we exit Europe without a deal and the government will be responsible for the Armageddon that follows."
And Citroen UK managing director Karl Howkins believes the new car and van markets could plummet by up to 25% or 600,000 annual sales if hit by the combination of a looming economic recession and a no-deal Brexit.
While in September the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders joined other EU trade bodies in signing an open letter lobbying to deter a hard Brexit.