It’s time for our January news roundup, and to offset the January blues is a slew of good-news stories, not least for Volvo whose new CEO is a brilliant tactical hire. Rolls-Royce has performed better than ever and there’s cause for optimism for graduates and the manufacturing sector as a whole.
Perhaps the new era of F1 that 2022 will usher in is an apt for metaphor for manufacturing and engineering as a whole. To wit: buckle up folks, it’s going to be quite a ride!
Rolls-Royce sees best-ever sales year
Last year saw Rolls-Royce Motor Cars deliver its highest-ever annual sales results in the marque's 117-year history. The company delivered 5,586 motor cars to clients around the world, up 49% on the same trading period the previous year. The marque enjoyed record sales in most regions including Greater China, the Americas and Asia-Pacific.
All models performed well, with growth driven principally by Ghost, and a surge in demand following the launch of Black Badge Ghost in October 2021. Order books are full well into the third quarter of 2022, thanks also to the popularity of Cullinan and the marque's pinnacle product, Phantom. Bespoke commissions remain at the record levels, with examples including the Phantom Oribe co-created with Hermès.
The iconic marque is preparing for an all-electric future with the announcement of Spectre, its first all-electric car, and continued investment in manufacturing and hires, including a record 37 new apprentices set to join the company in September this year.
F1’s new rules will dramatically level the playing field.
The FIA says this year’s new, more restrictive aero rules will combine with the cost cap to reduce the gap between the front and gap of the grid by half, after a year.
The 2022 season ushers in an era of new rules aimed to make the competition closer and more thrilling. Throughout 2021 there was a gap of around three seconds between the front and rear of the grid. Nikolas Tombazis, FIA’s head of single seater matters, anticipates this reducing to around 1.5 seconds over the course of the year, with the gap closing as teams understand the regulations better and learn where gains can be made. Strap yourself in; F1 is about to get a lot more competitive – or so we’re told!
Manufacturing & Technology
Manufacturing sector offers optimism for the year ahead
While disruptions to logistics and staff shortages hindered the pace of expansion for the UK’s manufacturing industry, there is cause for optimism. The HIS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) has remained well above 50 – a score which indicates expansion – for 19 months.
Outputs rose in consumer, intermediate and investment goods sectors in December, with the pace of expansion hitting a four-month high. Manufacturing employment increased for the twelfth successive month in December, linked to improved demand, increasing backlogs and efforts to address staff shortages. 63% of companies predict that production will increase over the next 12 months, with only 6% anticipating contraction.
Greenlight for Gigafactory in Coventry
Plans for a huge electric car battery factory at Coventry Airport have been given the go-ahead by Warwick District Council. The proposals would see the airport close but it is claimed that up to 6,000 new jobs would be created. The bid still requires backing or approval from a car company, government and planners at Coventry City Council, and while there has been significant opposition to the plans, they have also been supported by local MPS, unions and the Mayor of the West Midlands.
If it goes ahead, the facility would manufacture electric car batteries seen as key to the future of the UK car industry.
Veolia to open new battery recycling plant in UK
Meanwhile, Veolia, the UK’s leading resource management company, has announced its first electric vehicle battery recycling facility in the UK, which will have the capacity to process 20% of the UK’s end of life electric vehicle batteries by 2024.
Execs & Leaders
Former Dyson Executive appointed as Volvo CEO
We love watching executive hires as they reveal a lot about a company’s intentions, and they don’t come much bigger than this. Jim Rowan, former CEO of Dyson, has succeeded Håkan Samuelsson as President and Chief Executive Officer of Volvo Cars. (Samuelson will move to chairperson at sister brand Polestar).
Rowan has form when it comes to overseeing rapid transformation; his LinkedIn profile says he “immediately turbo charged the commercial transition” of Dyson on his appointment to CEO there in 2017.
Eric Li, chairperson of the board at Volvo, said, ‘Volvo Cars is going through a rapid transformation of digitalisation, which is why we wanted to bring in someone with global CEO experience from outside the automotive industry. Jim is the right person to accelerate Volvo Cars into the future – enabling it to become the fastest transformer in its field and a fully electric company with millions of direct consumer relationships’.
That’s a statement of intent if ever we saw one. Rowan will be responsible for leading Volvo into its EV era as it becomes a fully-electric manufacturer by 2030.
Graduate jobs are on the rise for 2022
According to a report by the Student Employers Association, vacancies will increase by 22% this year in comparison to 2021, particularly in some technology sectors such as the building environment, energy, engineering and health.
Surveys show evidence that recruitment has returned to the student-led market in general. Competition for graduate work reached a record high last year (2021), but nearly half of graduate employers report fewer applicants than this time last year. With the exception of retail and FMCG jobs, all sectors have returned to pre-pandemic employment levels.