A planned wheel manufacturing plant could help secure the automotive supply chain after Brexit, a Scottish economic development chief has claimed.
The alloy wheel production plant, which Liberty British Aluminium (LBA) plans to build next to its aluminium smelter in Fort William, would play a key role for a sector which currently imports all of its alloy wheels from abroad, said Charlotte Wright, chief executive of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Speaking to MSPs, she said it would help the industry “by securing the supply chain and developing a part of the supply chain that currently does not exist in the UK”.
The HIE is the Scottish Government’s economic development agency for the highlands, helping fund projects such as LBA’s aluminium smelter, the only one in the UK.
A spokesperson for LBA confirmed to SM the response from car manufacturers had been “very encouraging”.
The company is already doing “preparatory work” and “preparing for site clearance,” he said.
The company said industry representatives had been positive about the prospect of being able to source alloy wheels in Scotland rather than having to import their entire supply.
Brian King, a director at LBA, said: “We’ve been very encouraged by the reaction from the motor industry. They’ve recognised straight away how beneficial it will be for such a major component for their manufacturing process to be made in the UK.
“At present, almost all of the eight million alloy wheels used in British-made cars come from abroad. That’s going to change, and Scotland will be the flagbearer for that change.”
The news comes amid calls from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) to “rule out” a no-deal Brexit.
The trade body claimed that a no-deal scenario, and the resulting border tariffs, would add £5bn to the collective EU-UK auto trade bill.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the stakes were especially high for the industry, which is “deeply integrated across both sides of the channel”.
“Without a deal, there can be no transition period and the complex issues surrounding tariffs and trade, customs, regulation and access to talent will remain unresolved,” he added.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.