More government help is needed for the car industry as it deals with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a senior figure in the automotive sector.
Institute of the Motor Industry chief executive Steve Nash was forthright in his view that not enough had been done when he appeared on Car Dealer Live.
He acknowledged that other industries were also struggling and needed help, and told host James Batchelor that he had every confidence in the automotive industry’s ability to find its feet again, but added: ‘I think the government could do more to help us.
‘They’ve done almost nothing really specifically to help the car industry. When you look at other countries around Europe and around the world, considerably more has been done.
‘Given how important the car industry is, I think we could expect at least to see some help with VAT, or whatever it may be, but something.’
The IMI is a big supporter and advocate of apprenticeships and skills, and Batchelor wondered what the current position was – were there enough people coming into the industry with the right skills and was the industry giving the right people the right skills?
‘That’s a really good question and in general terms the answer is no, there aren’t enough people coming into the industry,’ said Nash.
‘We understand it’s a coin-operated business. You’ve got to make the week to make the month to make the quarter to make the year, so survival is the first instinct, and at the moment a few businesses are in that unfortunate position of having to throw a few passengers out to keep the balloon afloat. So right now recruitment is not on the agenda.
‘Apprenticeships overall have taken a hit. Across all industries they’re almost 60 per cent down – in automotive, they’re 87 per cent down, and this is at a time when we are looking at some profound changes in technology, and we know that we need new talent coming through and new skills.
‘The acuteness of the demand becomes a bit more or less depending on what cycle the industry is in, and at the moment we’re in a down cycle, and we know there are people out there looking for work. But that won’t last long…and the underlying need is still there.’
And again he targeted the government, saying the Spring Budget’s extra £2,000 for apprentices under 25 and £1,500 for over-25s hadn’t ‘moved the needle much’, so he was hoping the Autumn Budget would give a positive answer as regards the levy clawback, which the IMI wants the government to pause to allow companies to build up reserves and help them survive so they can recruit apprentices again.
Watch the interview in full – during which Brexit and online car sales were also among the topics discussed – by clicking on the main image.