Welcome to our roundup of the news that's grabbed our attention from across our specialist industries over the last month!
Toyota & Suzuki team up and it’s good news for UK
At last some welcome news for the automotive manufacturing industry in the UK. Toyota will build a new hybrid vehicle for Suzuki, with the Toyota Corolla-based model to be manufactured at the brand’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, while engines will be supplied from its factory in Deeside, North Wales.
This represents good news for UK automotive workers after Nissan and Honda announced plans to shift production away from the UK because of uncertainty over future trade deals with Europe. However, it is unlikely that Toyota’s production will lead to anything more than increased security for its UK workforce as it is not expected to lead to new jobs.
The partnership between the two Japanese brands represents a strategic decision to pool expertise whilst tackling the burgeoning electric and autonomous markets. Toyota is renowned for its hybrid technology; Suzuki is a specialist in affordable compact cars and a significant presence in the burgeoning (and massive) Indian market which has, to date, been a challenge for Toyota to crack.
Geneva Motor Show: an electric experience.
This year’s Geneva Motor Show, the annual automotive extravaganza of luxury showpieces and big reveals, was a hit. It had a distinctly electric feel as even the supercar manufacturers got in on the EV act. Geneva has always been a showcase for extravagance (as well as innovation), but some of the price tags this year were eye-watering. You can read more about the show in our very own blog.
Honda Red Bull: a flying start
In a happy reversal of a certain well-known advertising slogan, it seems that Honda has given Red Bull wings.
The partnership enjoyed a great start to the 2019 Formula One season, with a podium finish at the Australian opener (Honda’s first podium since 2008). Max Verstappen took third place from Sebastian Vettel with a signature daring drive and brilliant overtake, proving Honda’s power unit well up to the task as he finished not far short of second-placed Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner described the Honda power unit as “A great product…delivering good power.” With Verstappen at the wheels and a promising-looking partnership developing, just how much of a challenge could Red Bull Racing and Honda issue this season?
Manufacturing & Technology
UK car manufacturers: not a sunny outlook
Notwithstanding the good news from Toyota (see above, top) UK auto manufacturers are not feeling the joys of spring.
An industry survey has revealed a 27-year low in optimism amongst them as they begin stockpiling for an uncertain 2019 and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. Job losses are also being felt, with cuts being made at the highest rate since February 2013.
Other markets have slowed, with much of Europe, Japan and China also seeing a market reduction (albeit marginally in the case of China). But in the UK, manufacturers need to mitigate against potential disruptions to their supply chain, resulting in an increase of stockpiling that is the highest amount on record in one month, while UK car production fell by over 18% between January 2018 and January 2019.
Dyson tackles the wellbeing market
Dyson generally favours word-of-mouth buzz as a way of igniting consumer demand for new products. So earlier this month it offered reporters the chance to try out a trio of products, two of which represent new lines. In addition to an upgrade on its Cyclone cordless vacuum, the brand introduced a personal air purifying fan and an intelligent lamp that provides “personalised light”, based on the cycle of local daylight and a number of other personalised factors. Dyson’s expansion into multiple product lines continues.
Executives & Leaders
Movers, shakers and new launches
Bob Shanks, CFO at Ford since 2012, will retire this year, to be replaced by Tim Stone who officially takes up the role in June. Stone spent twenty years at Amazon and was the CFO of Snap, the parent company of Snapchat. The news comes as Ford announces global changes including new presidents of European operations and international markets.
It is thought that Stone’s background in the technology sector will suit Ford as it repositions itself as an auto and mobility company, while Shanks will spend some time assisting with special projects before ending his tenure at Ford.
At the (much) newer end of the market, it seems the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree for Anton Piech. Piech is the great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, and with his business partner Rea Stark Rajcic, he used the Geneva Motor Show to send a clear signal that his ambitious plans to launch sedans, SUVs and a sports car are nearing realisation.
Piech Automotive, their Swiss company, introduced delegates to the very arresting Mark Zero sports car concept, which has a range of nearly 300 miles and super-fast charge times based on a new type of battery and a charging system developed in collaboration with Desten Group and Qingdao TGOOD Electric Company. With several vehicles in the pipeline, Piech’s first model should be in production in three years.
Foreign students boost economy
A study by the Higher Education Policy Institute and the London Economics consultancy has found that international students who remain in the UK to work for a decade after graduation contribute £3.2bn in extra tax revenues and do not take jobs from local residents.
The first major report of its kind found that UK-based international graduates obtain work in mostly highly-qualified areas such as science, or sectors with shortages, such as nursing or teaching.
However, the study also found that £150m in revenue is lost each year because of the government’s restrictions on post-graduation employment, equating to some £1bn in foregone taxes since the limits were introduced in 2012.