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Automotive Sector Must Be Agile To Embrace New Challenges

The boss of a Teesside firm, which supplies components to the automotive sector, has outlined his vision of the future in the wake of predictions that Silicon Valley is planning to muscle in on the market with the emergence of driverless cars and electric car technology.

However, Gareth Thomas, Managing Director of precision plastic injection moulding firm Icon Plastics in Eaglescliffe, believes this has the potential to provide opportunities rather than threaten the automotive supply chain as long as companies are capable of adapting to embrace the emphasis on technology.

Mr Thomas, whose company employs 38 people and recently was visited by Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “Whoever secures the dominant position in the automotive industry, its supply chain cannot afford to stand still and must have the ability to respond quickly to the changing industrial landscape.

“Tech firms’ progression into the automotive sector can only be realised if they are able to assimilate the skills and experience of the component manufacturing supply chain in to their production processes and truly make their cars a mass-produced reality.”

Mr Thomas, who runs the company with Operations Director Phil Walker and whose opinion on this subject was featured in the Sunday Times, added: “However, suppliers must not be wedded to the past and must continue to demonstrate an innovation-led approach that has played a part in the growth of the sector.

“In the UK, the supply chain has risen to the challenge of successfully supporting a buoyant car industry, which is now the most productive in Europe.

“Indeed, productivity has reached a new peak with output per employee running at 11.5 vehicles per year during the last five years against 9.3 in the previous half decade.”

Mr Thomas points out that there also is the prospect of 320,000 UK jobs being created in the automotive sector, which has the potential of providing an annual economic boost of £321bn with extensive research in electric vehicle and driverless car technologies.

He added: “The supply chain must remain flexible, efficient and adaptable if it is to capitalise on emerging opportunities in a technology-focused automotive industry. “

Icon Plastics, which has invested £1m since it moved to new premises at Durham Lane Industrial Park at Eaglescliffe, has customers in a range of sectors including electronics, agricultural, healthcare and medical, construction, defence and automotive.