Industry in focus 2023: Automotive
According to recent comments from an industry leader, the automotive industry is experiencing signs of recovery. David Borland, EY UK & Ireland Automotive Leader, highlights the positive trend in new car sales for February 2023, with a year-on-year increase of over 26%. This marks the seventh consecutive month of growth, indicating a steady rebound from pre-pandemic volumes.
The growth in popularity of electric vehicles
Despite drawbacks faced by the industry - such as the scarcity of critical components - February's sales figures reveal a growing preference for electric vehicles (EV). Sales increased by over 18% compared to the previous month, accounting for 1 in 6 of all sales.
However, there is evidence that shows the UK is determined to enhance its role in the production of electric vehicles. Reports suggest that the UK may secure the hosting rights for a lucrative electric car battery plant worth billions of pounds, emerging as the winner in a battle with Spain for the rights.
The chairman of Tata, the parent company of Jaguar Land Rover, is anticipated to visit London soon to finalise the agreement. This proposed facility is considered a substantial investment in the UK's automotive sector and holds the potential to generate around 9,000 job opportunities.
While this indicates progress in the adoption of electric vehicles, there are concerns over the lack of charging stations throughout the county. To support the consumer shift towards electric vehicles, the UK will need to improve the ubiquity of electric car charging stations.
Health and Safety in the electric vehicle industry
The movement away from the production of combustion vehicles, and towards the creation of electric vehicles, presents a unique set of challenges. The high-voltage batteries needed to run these vehicles are capable of producing voltages that can approach 1000Vdc and produce arc flash currents of thousands of Amps.
From repairing batteries and changing components to working on associated battery systems, there are numerous scenarios in which EV industry workers could be at risk of falling victim to an arc flash. Thus, it's important that staff are adequately protected against such occurrences with proper PPE workwear, such as arc protection jackets. Not only will this ensure the safety of workers, but it will also pave the way for prosperity for the UK's automotive industry by reducing the risk of downtime caused by workplace injuries and accidents.
The future of the industry
Looking ahead, Manu Varghese, from EY's UK & Ireland Advanced Manufacturing & Mobility Team, emphasises the importance of reskilling auto workers and creating new talent pools as the industry moves towards an electrified future. Recent restructuring actions by major automotive manufacturers underscore the need for workforce adaptation in line with industry shifts. Navigating the ongoing challenges faced by the UK's automotive industry while capitalising on opportunities will be vital in ensuring a prosperous future for the sector.