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    NAA Update: New NAA Chief Executive announcement and coronavirus update

    I’d like to open this month’s newsletter with the exciting news that Paul Jones, my successor as Chief Executive, has this week started with the NAA!…

    Paul brings with him a wealth of automotive industry experience spanning over 30 years, across roles with Foden Trucks and Bentley, and is currently the Chair of the IMechE’s Automobile Division Board.

    Paul started his career with Foden Trucks, in Design & Development, working across assignments in the UK, USA and the Netherlands; with eventual responsibility for all design and development of new commercial vehicles from 17 – 150 tonnes. In 2000 Paul joined Bentley Motors, where he held a range of posts including Chief Programme Engineer for the first-generation Continental GT and Product Line Director for all subsequent Continental GT & Flying Spur models. In 2010 he was promoted to Director of Product Management, with responsibility for all future Bentley product strategy and planning.

    I hope you all join me, along with the NAA Board and Directors, in welcoming Paul into the NAA network over the coming months. I will remain with the NAA for the next few weeks, ensuring a thorough handover is carried out, and ensuring business continuity is maintained throughout the change. This will however be my last NAA Update article! I hope they have been an insightful source of information over the last couple of years.

    Moving on to less positive news, the impact of the coronavirus continues to be felt in the UK and the rest of the world, and besides the human tragedy, it has started to have an impact on the automotive sector, primarily linked to the severe impact the virus has had on the Chinese manufacturers, which produce one quarter of global automotive production, and 8% of global exports of automotive components. The effects of this can be seen within the UK automotive industry. Reports have come out of JLR that they have had to fly parts into the UK in suitcases just to maintain production, and reports from JCB indicate that production has been reduced due to part shortages.

    Furthermore, car sales in China have been significantly impacted, which in turn has had an effect on UK-based OEMs such as JLR who reported a plunge of 85% in year-on-year sales in February. The effects of coronavirus are being seen throughout all tiers of the supply chain, with many companies reporting cashflow challenges linked to fixed costs and unpaid receivables.

    There are some positives to share around the outbreak of coronavirus however. A recent survey, carried out by the China Britain Business Council, has indicated that businesses that import from China are more likely to make changes to their business model, such as shifting their supply chains. Only 3% of exporters plan to shift their long-term focus away from China, but nearly one-third of importers are planning to look for new suppliers outside of China.  I have had recent conversations with SMEs who have reported a growth of enquiries, and in some cases have won orders that had previously been lost to Chinese suppliers. There are also some recent reports that Chinese companies are slowly starting to ramp up production again, which is a positive step.

    Whether optimistic or pessimistic, there is no denying that the spread of coronavirus is an ongoing concern, and it is resulting in companies implementing travel bans and restricting the movement of staff for meetings and events. Large events, like the Geneva Motor Show, or more locally, the Industry 4.0 Summit, are being cancelled or postponed. The NAA will monitor the situation very closely in relation to its own events, with the containment of the virus being the top priority. I would also encourage reading this article on coronavirus planning from our IT Partner, Network ROI.

    To finish, I would also like to signpost some forthcoming NAA events and training:

    • Discovering Cyber Security Solutions (Network ROI, Newton-le-Willows, 24th March) – learn more about Cyber Security and ask questions during the interactive session. The session will be structured in a practical way that helps delegates to enhance the cyber security strategies of their organisations.
    • Develop your Digital Technology Roadmap (Partnership for Learning, Liverpool, 31st March) – a one-day workshop that aims to help you understand the process of developing a digital technology roadmap. Cost – £350 + VAT for NAA members, £450 + VAT for non-members.
    • Insight into Automotive Manufacturers’ EV & CAV Strategies (University of Salford, 15th April) – a one day event which aims to highlight the growing CAV and EV strengths within the NAA geography, and kickstart collaboration in the region that will support solutions for these new challenges in the automotive industry. Please note that registrations for this event are already almost at capacity.

    That just leaves me to say that it’s been a pleasure working with the NAA, the Board and its members over the past couple of years. I’m hugely proud of what has been achieved in that time, adding new services and ideas to the organisation, during a tough economic period for our industry. I will continue to be an active participant within the NAA network moving forward, and I hope our paths may cross again in the future.


    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham