The Guardian view on the UK car industry: facing a green moment of truth | Editorial

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If a rudderless government continues to stand back, other countries will dominate the electric vehicle revolution

Over recent decades, Britain’s economy has become steadily more service-based. But as the opening ceremony of Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games powerfully illustrated, industry still occupies pride of place in the imagination of regions such as the West Midlands. At the Alexander stadium, Jaguars, Minis and Rovers of various vintages were showcased to the world – the past and present of a car manufacturing sector that provides well-paid, skilled jobs, and defines a local sense of identity.

The future, though, has never looked more insecure. In the short term, a combination of the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine has created a supply chain crisis that has led to an output slump and drop in sales. In July, car sales in the UK fell by 9%. Falling living standards, prolonged recession and high inflation will add to the industry’s problems by hitting demand. This perfect storm is challenging enough. But the longer-term question facing the UK car industry is existential: as the world leaves the internal combustion engine behind and moves to battery electric vehicles, is Britain going to remain a mass car producer or not?

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