The future of the automotive industry: An interview with Luke Hampton

Here at Kloeckner Metals UK, we are proud of our close work with all major market sectors in the UK and our ability to developing new multi-metal solutions. Renowned for our unrivalled ability to meet our customers’ requirements, we’re always keen to move fast to ensure that we can maintain our level of service with the demands of our customers’, and we are able to do this by developing innovative value-added services and introducing digital solutions.

The automotive industry is just one market sector that we supply fully certified materials to which meet international and industry standards, whilst meeting the requirements demanded by the sector. Things are getting increasingly exciting in the automotive sector, from the emergence of connected and autonomous vehicles to new development of technologies.

We wanted to find out more about the developments in the automotive industry so we spoke to Luke Hampton, Senior Supply Chain Manager at SMMT, to gain some industry insight on the future of the automotive industry and the role of the steel and metal industry.

Read more below.

Can you tell us a bit about SMMT and what you do?

SMMT is the UK automotive industry trade body, providing a singular voice for the whole of the sector, including third parties and stakeholders. We have over 750 members and bring them together to find out what their challenges are.

What exciting developments are coming in the industry?

The most exciting developments coming from the automotive industry are new technologies which enable us to develop better, safer and greener products for the future. From a UK perspective, it is particularly exciting as many of these technology developments are actually happening here in the UK. There is a real opportunity for UK companies to benefit from the design, development and manufacture of these technologies with market uptake set to accelerate in the coming years.

In particular, the UK is well set to benefit from the expected increased powertrain shift from internal combustion to electrical. Key opportunities for the UK will lie in the high-value assemblies of both battery and powertrain technologies.

What exactly are connected and autonomous vehicles and what are their benefits?

‘Connected autonomous vehicles’ is a broad term and they already exist to an extent in the market. There is a scale of how autonomous a vehicle is and we are actually on a journey up that scale at the moment.

There is a strong industry drive to maximise the potential benefits of autonomy and connectedness for the end user. These vehicles could allow consumers to understand a route better, increase road safety, provide in-depth knowledge of what is in your area and would also enable those with disabilities to have a greater level of mobility.

What will connected and autonomous vehicles mean for the future of the automotive industry?

Some futurists say vehicle manufacturers will move away from the traditional buy-and-sell model, toward mobility solutions providers. Current partnerships with car sharing platforms, including Uber and Lyft, indicates this is progressing. The rise in these types of services suggests that younger generations are not so set on the idea of owning their own vehicle.

However, there is still a great chance that the industry’s current dynamic will continue for some time; people we like owning things and having their own space, as well as the convenience of going where we want, when we want. In this case, it’s likely that the classic buy-and-sell model will continue to exist, but perhaps at a smaller scale.

There will always be people who want to drive their own cars, however autonomy and connectedness will definitely impact the car industry.

Could connected and autonomous vehicles have an impact on the steel and metals industry?

Well, connected and autonomous vehicles could be used in terms of delivery and distribution in the steel industry. There’s also opportunities for the transfer of technology into manufacturing processes and logistics. They could have much wider applications than just within vehicles themselves.

How do you feel the automotive industry will change over the next 10 years?

In the next 10 years, from a product point of view, we will see a sharp uptick in terms of the number and level of proliferation of connected autonomous technologies into the new car market. Through regulatory pressures, particularly in the European market, there will be increased levels of electrification and consequently, product portfolios will continue to diversify.

There will be a growing number of electric vehicles from all vehicle manufacturers, and an increased number of dedicated electric vehicle models.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge for the automotive industry?

It has to be competitiveness. From the mid 70’s to 90’s and into the 00’s, there was a significant hollowing out of the UK supply chain, with a lot of investment moving off-shore, resulting in a significant impact on the automotive manufacturing industries’ economic contribution.

If we as a nation can get the automotive supply chain to invest in digital and autonomous manufacturing technologies, it would dramatically increase our productivity rates. With support from the government, potential big wins could come to the UK as a result of investment. After all, there is a strong link between increased productivity and increased competitiveness.

It continues to be an exciting time for Kloeckner Metals UK as we work closely with our customers’ to develop new digital solutions and innovative products. With the launch of our Online Shop at the start of September, our product offering is now more accessible than ever.

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