Drive begins to boost North East automotive sector

Senior figures from a number of sector organisations have met to help pave a way forward for the automotive supply chain

Mike Matthews MBE, managing director of Nifco UK and European operations officer
Mike Matthews MBE, managing director of Nifco UK and European operations officer

Talks have begun to help boost the region’s economy through the growth of the automotive sector.

Tony Sarginson, who represents the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), and Lawrence Davies, from UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) Automotive Investment Organization (AIO), met at parts manufacturer Nifco UK to agree terms of working that mark the start of a dialogue to drive the development of the region’s automotive supply chain.

The NEAA, which is a newly formed alliance bringing together representatives from businesses including Nissan and Komatsu, was established to help the North East unlock its potential and grow its supply chain. The organisation, which officially launches this year, hopes that by bringing the right people together, it can accelerate the growth of the sector in the North East.

AIO, meanwhile, aims to increase the percentage of UK-produced parts that are used in cars built in this country.

Mr Sarginson, who is among the NEPIC cluster team delivering a UKTI-sponsored project tasked with growing the economy of the North East, said: “We already have many outstanding, world class automotive manufacturers in this part of the world - Nifco being a good example - but we have never really worked corroboratively across the sector for the greater good of the region.

“Our industry leaders believe that there are potentially great benefits to be gained if we were to form a strong, supportive automotive cluster that unites key players in the sector and inspires more businesses to get on board with what is a massive opportunity for the manufacturing businesses that want to grow in our region.

“It’s vital that we also harness the support of wider reaching organisations, such as the AIO, to ensure that we bring the right minds together, and that businesses in this sector in the North East benefit from the best advice, support and assistance possible to spur on their development and growth plans.”

Currently, only 35% of parts used in UK-made cars are produced in this country, compared with over 60% in Germany.

The AIO hopes to tackle this by working with Government and the automotive industry to attract increased international investment and expertise into the supply chain.

Lawrence Davies, deputy CEO at UKTI AIO, and a former director at General Motors, said there was an opportunity for the North East to shine on a national and international stage.

He said: “The North East really is so, so strong when it comes to automotive, and we are keen to help the area to capitalize on the presence of major OEMs.

“The NEAA has a vital role to play in bringing the key players in the sector together, and sharing their experience to help more and more businesses come through and spur on the development of automotive manufacturing.

“I am sure we will be working closely with the organisation over the coming months and years.”

The Stockon-based Nifco UK designs, develops and manufactures components for the global automotive industry.

Managing director and European operations officer, Mike Matthews, who is also a board member of NEAA, said: “The automotive sector is one that I think is hugely important to the economy in this area, and it is vital that businesses in the field become genuine champions, sharing their knowledge and experiences to ensure that other companies enter the sector.

“The stronger entrenched the supply chain becomes in the North East, the more secure we make the sector and that is good for everyone.”


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