Speech at the official opening of Richburg Lotus Singapore

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

As the Guest of Honour at the official opening of Richburg Lotus, HE Antony Phillipson prepared a speech for the event.

Aslam Bin Farikullah Chief Operating Officer of Lotus UK, Dato Lukman Bin Ibrahim Group Chief Executive Officer of DRB HICOM, Tan Sri Kharmil Group Managing Director of DRB HICOM, Eric Wong, Chief Executive of Richburg Lotus, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It’s a great pleasure and an honour to be here this afternoon and my congratulations to Eric Wong and all at Richburg Lotus for their success in winning the Lotus franchise for Singapore.

Since 1996 Lotus cars have, of course, been owned by companies from Malaysia through Proton and now DRB-Hicom. But while it may not be British owned anymore the Lotus brand is still very closely identified with the UK.

And that’s not just because the initials of the founder Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman are still an integral part of the Lotus badge but because it remains a very important part of the UK automotive industry based at the former site of RAF Hethel, a World War II airfield in Norfolk, UK. As recently as August 2013 Lotus announced that it will create more than 100 new jobs at its Hethel base following a £100 million investment by DRB-Hicom.

While the look, and feel of the cars, for anyone lucky enough to own or have driven one, may be unique, this set up – foreign owned British brands - is not, indeed it is increasingly how the UK automotive sector is structured.

But that certainly does not make the sector any less important to the overall British economy. Let’s just look at some facts:

  • 129,000 people are directly employed in the UK automotive sector
  • A new vehicle rolls off a production line in the UK every 20 seconds
  • The UK currently makes nearly 1.6 million vehicles each year, this is expected to rise to over 2 million by 2017. 80% of those vehicles are exported – for some like Lotus it’s even higher
  • the upshot is that the automotive sector is worth £11.2 billion to the UK economy.
  • And our flexible workforce, openness to creativity and innovation and reputation for world class design has attracted £6 billion of investment in the last two years from global vehicle manufacturers such as the investment of £100 million by DRB-Hicom that I mentioned just now. In the course of the last year we have been working hand in hand with business to develop an Automotive Strategy that will build on this very strong platform. It aims to make the sector’s long term future more secure, grow the UK share of the value chain and secure strong global competitive positions in low carbon research and development (R&D) and in premium and niche vehicles.

Points it covers include:

  • investing, with industry, £1 billion over 10 years in a new Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to support new technology and supply chains for low carbon vehicles
  • investing up to £3 million to set up the Automotive Investment Organisation to lead attracting inward investors to invest in the UK, particularly supply chain companies
  • ensuring the right skills through a collective road map for the skills and training needed to address skills gaps in the automotive sector (eg joint programmes to attract school leavers, graduates and postgraduates into the automotive industry)

I look forward to Lotus continuing to go from strength to strength and playing an integral part in the future success of this vital sector for the UK economy.

Now, this is not, of course, the only automotive event going on in Singapore this weekend, and Lotus will be a big part of the other one too, down in Marina Bay this evening and tomorrow.

It’s worth noting that Formula 1 is another very important UK automotive success story. More F1 cars are made in the UK than anywhere else and 8 of 11 F1 teams are based in the UK.

Approximately 4,500 companies are involved in the UK Motorsport and Performance Engineering Industry, boasting an annual turnover of £6 billion – of which £3.6 billion exported.

So, in closing may I wish everyone a GREAT racing weekend and may I offer once again my congratulations to Eric Wong and the Richburg Lotus team. I look forward to seeing many more Lotuses on the Singapore roads in the future.

Thank you.