100,000+ skilled UK jobs at risk as red tape threatens to strangle classic vehicle trade

100,000+ skilled UK jobs at risk as red tape threatens to strangle classic vehicle trade

Posted 27 May, 2021 at 13:30

Author Mark Bradshaw on behalf of (IFM) Independent Forecourt Magazine


NEW TRADE ASSOCIATION WILL CAMPAIGN TO SECURE FUTURE OF GREAT BRITISH INDUSTRY

More than 100,000 jobs are in peril as a combination of bureaucracy and poorly-focused environmental legislation threatens Britain’s world leading classic vehicle industry.

With economic revival a top priority as the UK strives to recover from the Covid pandemic, highly-skilled engineers, restorers, craftsmen and parts suppliers face uncertainty over their livelihoods.

Leading figures in the classic vehicle industry fear complex new rules around exporting and importing cars and parts to and from the EU and widespread misunderstanding of the environmental impact of vintage motoring are damaging owners’ confidence and enthusiasm.

They are calling on British Politicians and Regulators to use their post-Brexit regulatory independence to help grow this valuable sector of the economy.

They have formed a new trade association, the Historic and Classic Vehicles Alliance (HCVA), which launches today (25/5/21) with a mission to protect and promote the sector and secure its long-term future.

The ‘not for profit’ organisation intends to campaign on behalf of individuals and companies in the classic vehicle world including specialist restorers, dealers, parts suppliers and a broad cross section of the multi-billion-pound industry. The sector’s contribution to the UK economy is huge. Annual turnover including substantial international trade is estimated at £18.3 billion, the three-million-strong British classic fleet is valued at over £12 billion and annual tax revenue generated for the exchequer is close to £3 billion.

Significantly, the industry is spread the length and breadth of the country, with clusters of specialists operating in the West Midlands, Lancashire, Kent and Sussex – and only 5% of activity based in London.

The trade, in which British craft skills and engineering excellence lead the world, supports around 113,000 jobs in thousands of specialist small businesses and supply chain firms. It also provides training places and apprenticeship schemes, giving opportunities to young people. 

HCVA director Harry Whale said: ‘Our sector is a great British success story and has been for decades. But it’s in serious jeopardy and may not survive to continue providing opportunities for future generations if we don’t act now. In a world of mind-boggling bureaucracy, with environmental and other legislation looming, we need to ensure the voice of the industry and owners is heard and understood by regulators and those in power. We’ll work hard for the whole sector. We’re taking the initiative now to address current challenges, clear up confusion and grasp opportunities to find solutions. These problems span the world and we’re determined to take a long-term view as we campaign to secure the future.’

Fellow director Henry Pearman said: ‘Classic and historic vehicles invariably bring a smile to the face of people who see them on our roads or TV screens. There are more than a million passionate owners in the UK and around 10 million people who are interested in these vehicles which really are an important element of our national heritage. The time has come for us in the industry, owners and enthusiasts to all to join together to correct a host of myths and misconceptions and to protect and celebrate the world we love.’

HCVA advisory board member Emma Crickmay added: ‘It is absolutely vital we take steps to preserve jobs and encourage new generations into pursuing fulfilling careers in our industry. It is so important that conditions are created that allow us to develop training programmes, support skills transfer and boost diversity. We are very keen to see a boost in apprenticeships – it’s investment in the future. There is a passion, enthusiasm and devotion to the craftsmanship, materials and traditional skills of the individuals who work tirelessly restoring classic cars. These vital skills preserve historically and culturally important rolling pieces of mechanical artwork which educate and delight owners and enthusiasts, and light up a child’s face in wonder when they glide by. I’ve been that child and I’m now that enthusiast.’

Sympathetic supporters of the new alliance include prominent politicians such as former transport minister and East Sussex MP Nus Ghani who has classic car trade firms in her constituency. She said: ‘The classic and historic vehicle industry is a great British success story that gives pleasure to millions and it would be disastrous if it suffered serious damage through neglect or ignorance. We need to do all we can to support a sector that provides thousands of highly skilled and well-paid jobs in my constituency and across the UK and preserves exemplary skills and craftsmanship. We should be looking for ways to help businesses find solutions to problems and, now more than ever, we should be making it easier – not harder - for reputable high-quality companies to serve their customers. In the current economic climate we certainly can’t afford to risk letting valuable jobs die. The HCVA has my wholehearted backing.’

Fellow former minister and MP for Ludlow, as well as Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne, has also lent his support to the establishment of the HCVA, saying: “The historic and classic car sector plays an important role not only in preserving heritage, but also delivering skilled jobs. I wish HCVA success as they look to address issues facing the owners, enthusiasts and the industry as we emerge from the impact of the pandemic and seek to re-energise the economy.”

The HCVA is seeking solutions, as many businesses and owners find themselves trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare as they navigate red tape surrounding the movement of vehicles and parts for sales, restoration, competition preparation and events.

Alliance founders are on a mission to educate public, politicians and regulators on environmental issues. They are respectful of the green agenda and argue that restoration and revival of classic and historic vehicles is in fact the epitome of sustainability because it is all about applying enduring skills to prolonging the life of great pieces of craftsmanship rather than surrendering to built-in obsolescence.

The Alliance can demonstrate that, contrary to popular misconception, classic vehicle emissions have a relatively modest impact on the environment compared to many modern cars because they are typically better maintained and driven sparingly. Restoring and improving a classic, they argue, creates far less emissions than producing and shipping any new vehicle. On average classics are only driven around 16 times a year covering circa 1200 miles, with many doing much less, and producing just 20% of the CO2 emissions from using a computer and a mobile phone for a year. 

Legendary Formula 1 designer Professor Gordon Murray is also backing the HCVA. He said: ‘It has always been important to support individuals, companies and organisations that preserve our Automotive Heritage. The restoration and preservation of classic cars keeps our rich history in the automotive sector alive for future generations. As we move towards electrification and ever more stringent regulations, in my view it will become even more important to support and protect our classic automotive heritage.’

A key aim of the HCVA is to instil confidence in the millions of classic vehicle owners when they deal with specialist firms. The alliance is committed to accountability and pledges to introduce reliable common standards and a code of conduct that all members sign up to.

HCVA membership is open to businesses and individuals from across the sector including established dealers, marque specialists, restorers, parts specialists, competition preparers, importation and registration services, transport and storage specialists. The association will also welcome vehicle owners and enthusiasts as well as specialist auction businesses, historic racing and rallying organisations, classic car tours, concours and events organisers, museums, specialist insurers and car finance providers.

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