It’s a real honour to open Intertek’s new testing facility today (14 January 2016).
And I am really pleased that Intertek will be using its expertise in a new field.
The UK automotive industry is a genuine economic success story.
Last year Britain built 1.5 million cars.
One and a quarter million of which we exported to over a hundred different countries.
Almost 800,000 people are employed in an industry that in 2013 turned over £64 billion.
In 2014, a single plant – Nissan in Sunderland – made more cars than the whole of Italy.
That makes you feel proud.
And it means Britain’s transport manufacturing sector has passed its pre-recession peak and continues to grow.
But that success is dependent on British-made cars being not just reliable, safe, clean and efficient, but verifiably so.
The effect that cars have on our air quality has been in the news a lot recently.
That focus won’t go away.
Poor air is a real health danger in many towns and cities and CO2 standards for new cars are continually being tightened.
Meanwhile, car manufacturers are facing global competition, unpredictable commodity prices and exchange rates, and ever-increasing consumer expectations.
I have no doubt that the UK’s automotive sector will rise to these challenges, but only if research and development keep pace.
And that’s where Intertek’s fantastic new facility comes in.
It’s a vital addition to the UK’s testing capability, and it means we can test more of our cars here, in the UK, rather than sending them abroad.
That’s convenient for manufacturers, and it keeps the commercial advantage here, too.
We need to develop our expertise in testing electric vehicles, because by 2050 we want virtually every car on the road to be an ultra low emission vehicle.
To help us achieve our target, the government is spending over £600 million to support the ultra low emission vehicle market.
We have funded more than 50,000 Plug-in Car and Van Grants to help motorists buy ultra low emission vehicles.
We have invested in refuelling infrastructure, including charging points for electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
We are running the Go Ultra Low communications campaign, supporting cleaner buses and taxis and working with Innovate UK and the Advanced Propulsion Centre to develop new technology.
This investment will ensure that the low emission vehicles of the future are designed, developed and tested here in the UK.
So Intertek’s investment makes perfect sense.
You are helping us on the way to low emission vehicles being increasingly commonplace on our roads, offering drivers all the convenience of internal combustion engine vehicles, but with cheaper running costs and cleaner, quieter engines.
It means that we have come a long way in 120 years. On the 7th and 8th of May we will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the first horseless carriage exhibition, with a recreation of the event at Imperial College.
I hope to see some of you there.
But I would like to end my remarks by saying thank you.
Thank you for your vote of confidence in the UK’s car manufacturing sector.
And thank you for your commitment to the future of motoring.
Your work here helps make the UK a global leader in the design, production and testing of cutting-edge vehicles, and will do nothing less than revolutionise personal transport.