South Wales to get zero-emission black cab plant

Norwegian aluminium company Sapa has announced plans to invest £9.6m in an automotive plant in Caerphilly, Wales in order to produce a new generation of eco-friendly London black cabs.

The new plant will create more than 130 jobs in Bedwas, South Wales on a site which was mothballed by Sapa in 2014 due to tough market conditions and over capacity, according to the Guardian. The plant was previously used for aluminium extrusion but will be refurbished for the change of purpose.

The move comes as manufacturing confidence is faltering due to uncertainty over Brexit. Financial backing of £550,000 from the Welsh government was given as the reason why Bedwas was chosen over another of Sapa’s European sites.

The new factory will be producing cabs for the London Electric Vehicle Company, which is developing a zero-emissions taxi ahead of moves to ban diesel and petrol cars and vans in the UK from 2040. London is already subject to a congestion charge and Low-Emission Zone.

Production will commence at the plant from late 2017, using materials sourced from Spain. Output will increase steadily over the next five years.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “The opening will create a range of new job opportunities and give a new lease of life to the area.”


Confidence in UK car production boosted by Nissan’s £100 million investment in Sunderland factory

Japanese car manufacturer Nissan Motor Co Ltd is to make an investment of GBP100m in its Sunderland plant, securing at total of 34,000 jobs in both manufacturing and the supply chain into the next decade, it was reported on Thursday.

The announcement indicates that confidence in the UK’s car industry has increased. The Sunderland plant reportedly produced over 500,000 cars in 2014, which makes it the biggest car plant in the UK. The factory, which employs 6,700 people, is said to make more cars than the whole of the Italian car industry. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, reportedly show that UK car production in the first half of the year reached a seven-year high of 793,642 cars, which equates to three cars being produced every minute.

Nissan will produce a new version of its successful Juke small so-called crossover model at the Sunderland factory, where it already manufactures the Qashqai, Note and the electric Leaf models. The plant is also geared up to begin production for the company’s premium Infiniti brand

According to reports, Nissan’s European design team in Paddington, London, and European Engineering Headquarters in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, will be instrumental in the development of the new model.

Chancellor George Osborne was quoted as saying that the announcement was “fantastic news”, adding: ” Our ambitious plan to build the Northern Powerhouse means building on the area’s strengths – including manufacturing – and this announcement is an important sign of Britain being chosen as a global leader in car production.”

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary at Unite union, was quoted as saying: “We warmly welcome the decision of Nissan to build the new Juke model in the UK, when it could have gone to one of Nissan’s plants abroad.

“The decision demonstrates the confidence the industry has in a highly skilled and dedicated workforce across the UK automotive industry.”

UK manufacturing output down 1.5% in January

The chances of the UK avoiding another recession are looking slimmer today, with official figures showing a drop manufacturing output for January.

After the announcement by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning the pound fell against the dollar and the euro.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, UK manufacturing fell by 1.5% between December 2012 and January 2013. This was weaker than expected and has fuelled fears that the economy may contract in the first quarter, officially entering its third recession in five years.

Driven by reduced oil and gas extraction, output for mining & quarrying was down 2.4% from December and there was also a drop of 0.2% in the waste management sector. These falls were partially offset by a 1.2% increase in the energy supply sector. Overall, industrial production was 1.2% lower than in the prior month.

Compared against the same month last year, industrial production in January 2013 declined by 2.9% and the narrower measure of manufacturing output was down 3.0%.

A separate report released today by the ONS showed that the UK’s deficit in trade in goods shrank in January, although this was because imports fell more than exports.

The goods trade deficit narrowed to GBP8.2bn, from GBP8.7bn in December. Total exports of goods from UK manufacturers decreased by GBP900m or 3.5%, to GBP24.4bn, while total imports fell by GBP1.4bn or 4.2% to GBP32.6bn.

As in previous months, the dominant services sector helped to offset the goods trade deficit. According to the ONS the UK had an estimated surplus of GBP5.8bn on trade in services in January.

Including the trade in goods and services the overall deficit was an estimated GBP2.4bn in January, compared with a deficit of GBP2.8bn in December.

David Kern, chief economist of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that more effective action is needed to ensure that the untapped potential of many British exporters can be used to drive a sustainable recovery.

Growth for UK car manufacturing in January

Car manufacturing in the UK grew by 1.2% in January but commercial vehicle production slumped, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said today.

A total of 129,049 cars rolled out of the factories in the first month of the year, and strong domestic demand meant that output of cars built for the UK market increased by 26.1% year-on-year.

Mike Baunton, interim chief executive of the SMMT, said that despite ongoing economic challenges, growing demand for UK-built products in emerging global markets, combined with major new investment, indicates that 2013 will be a strong year for automotive manufacturing.

According to the SMMT, independent analysts have suggested that UK car manufacturing could grow a third bigger by 2016, with output expanding to almost two million vehicles each year.

The future looks rather less bright for commercial vehicle makers, however.

Output in this sector, which includes a range of vehicles from light panel vans to heavy trucks, as well as buses, coaches and minibuses, fell by 20.5% to 7,822 units in January. A 3.2% rise in output for the domestic market did little to offset a reduction of 37.2% in the production of commercial vehicles for export. In a reversal of the situation in January 2011, more than half of the UK commercial vehicle output in January 2012 was for the home market.

The SMMT expects further decreases in output over the course of 2013 as Ford scales backs its manufacturing.

January also saw a decrease in UK engine production, which declined by 5.1% to 219,757 units. Manufacturers make some 2.5 million petrol and diesel engines in the UK each year, but last month exports declined by 9.5% year-on-year while production for the the home market was 2.8% higher than a year earlier.

UK manufacturing returns to growth in March but industrial output falls

UK manufacturing output rose again in March, showing an increase of 0.9% after a fall of 1.1% in February, according to the latest Index of Production released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Month-on-month growth was registered in eight manufacturing sub-sectors, including chemicals, transport equipment and electronics, while four sub-sectors, including wood and paper products manufacturing, recorded a decrease and one was flat.

Philip Shaw from specialist bank and asset manager Investec, quoted by the BBC, said it was encouraging to see that manufacturing in March almost recovered its February losses. He noted however that, looking at the first quarter as a whole, the sector remains flat.

The ONS’s wider measure of industrial production decreased by 0.3% in March, with reductions seen in oil and gas production and mining and quarrying.

Year-on-year comparisons reveal that manufacturing output was 0.9% lower in March 2012 than in March 2011. Seven manufacturing sub-sectors declined, including food, drink & tobacco and rubber & plastic products, while six sub-sectors increased, led by transport equipment manufacturing.

Similarly, industrial production fell by 2.6% in March 2012 compared with March 2011, the 13th consecutive decrease in this metric, with the last rise seen in February 2011.