A new body aimed at promoting and supporting the growth of the region’s vital automotive industry officially opens for business today.
The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is an industry-led organisation which brings together major names including Nissan, Nifco, Komatsu, Sevcon and Hyperdrive.
At the heart of the network will be the provision of strategic leadership to grow the industry, the attraction of new companies and jobs to the region and support for business excellence and best practice.
It will also provide benchmarking, help companies to boost efficiency and reduce costs, while working to increase the region’s competitiveness in the sector.
Prior to its launch, the NEAA carried out the first in-depth research into the scale and importance of the automotive sector to the region.
It found that the industry generates £7bn in sales for the North East, is responsible for £5.1bn in exports and creates a £2.6bn trade surplus annually.
In the last five years, more than £1bn in regional investment has been made into 21 automotive projects.
The sector directly employs 26,000 people and impacts on a further 141,000 jobs.
Potentially, 10,000 additional jobs could be created in the next five to 10 years, although around 8,500 people in the industry are due to retire during that period.
The NEAA, which is offering membership to businesses ranging from multinationals to sole traders, will be working to address the resulting skills gap.
Speakers at a launch event at the Nissan Sunderland plant today include Kevin Fitzpatrick, chair of NEAA and Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing in the UK, Lawrence Davies, deputy chief executive of the Automotive Investment Organisation and Paul Butler, the NEAA’s chief executive, who previously worked for the North East Process Industry Cluster (Nepic) for almost a decade.
Mr Butler said: “In February last year, we had a meeting with key North East automotive businesses and invited the North West Automotive Alliance across to talk to us. That meeting spurned an appetite within the sector to create our own cluster.
“Many regions across the EU are organised in such a way. A whole range of businesses and organisations have already signed up to the cluster from large manufacturers, tier-one suppliers to single-person suppliers, legal, financial, and academic organisations.”
NEAA members will benefit from the promotion of the North East automotive sector’s capabilities on regional, national and international levels as well as from the network’s ability to connect the supply chain to business opportunities.
They will also have access to a comprehensive website with a dedicated members’ area to share knowledge, information and collaborative projects.
Regional events, workshops and newsletters will connect members to potential funds and inform them of new industry issues.
Cost-saving schemes for insurance, international payments and initiatives allowing them to buy materials at better rates will also be available.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “There are many opportunities ahead for companies in the automotive industry in North East England to win new business in the UK and from overseas and to improve their competitiveness and capability.
“The North East Automotive Alliance will provide the platform for making sure companies in the North East are able to take full advantage.”
The new cluster is also being supported by Sunderland City Council, with council leader Paul Watson, saying: “We are proud that the NEAA has set up its headquarters in Sunderland, which is at the centre of the region’s automotive industry.
“In addition to the Nissan factory, Sunderland has a vigorous and growing automotive supply chain. We would urge companies in the sector, both in the city and across the region, to take advantage of the huge benefits that membership of the cluster looks set to bring for individual businesses and the North East economy as a whole.”