The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) was confident of a successful event as the Commercial Vehicle Show opened its doors last week, despite the backdrop of economic uncertainty and the competing attraction for manufacturers this year of the biennial Hanover CV Show, which takes place in September.
Chief executive Mike Hawes said 460 exhibitors had filled the three halls allotted to the show at the NEC in Birmingham, the same number as last year. He claimed the busy halls demonstrated the appetite remained strong for an annual UK show despite competing demands on marketing budgets.
“People still want to talk with companies at the show and to kick tyres. People are here for business,” he said.
Hawes warned, however, that the full impact of Brexit on the UK LCV industry has not yet arrived.
“We haven’t actually left [the EU] yet,” he said. “The economy is still growing but not as fast as it should be or [as fast as] the rest of Europe.”
Hawes welcomed the boost internet shopping has given van operators but acknowledged waning consumer confidence was leading to a “gradual decline” in the market.
He reiterated his call for “frictionless trade” to be maintained between the UK and EU and said pragmatism was needed on both sides to achieve this goal.
“Maintaining flexible trade helps both sides,” Hawes said.
While he admitted the difficulty caused by the government’s pledge to leave both the Customs Union and Single Market, he added: “It would be wrong of me not to stick to [the SMMT’s] principles. We need both the Customs Union and Single Market for totally frictionless trade.”
Hawes stressed the automotive industry relied on a skilled workforce being free to move both ways between the EU and UK and pointed out that 80% of vehicles made in the UK go to the Single Market.
“All of this could be lost, to be replaced with what?” he asked.