The UK auto assembler Nissan has thrown a giant spanner into the UK debate on EU membership by saying that, in the event of a referendum no vote, it would be forced to consider the future of its UK plants.
The issue is wider than just vehicle assembly.
The Nissan position touches upon the whole future of UK vehicle assembly and therefore upon the prospects of UK participation in the design, application, manufacture, supply and support for telematics products.
The announcement – by CEO Carlos Ghosn – described as one of the ‘most important global industrialists’ came on the eve of the UK Parliament was informally debating a proposal to make a membership referendum law.
Despite repeated claims from the UK Government that the country leads the world in telematics – for example it recently told the on-going House of Commons inquiry into telematics that:
The UK is a world leader in intelligent transport systems (ITS), whereby new technologies are applied to achieve innovations in vehicles and traffic management.
…the reality is rather harder to pin down.
Closer examination reveals an isolated UK, watching from the sidelines while major technological changes take place.
And what takes place in Europe has impacts in global vehicle design and sophistication.
For example, take the following projects which will have decisive impact on the future design of telematics features and their adoption in vehicles currently being planned:
- EcoDriver project – EU funded project with a project panel chaired at the Leeds University Transport Institute. A major project but little discussed in the UK
- Ecall – Europe-wide project to install in every new vehicle an emergency accident alert and call system free at the point of use. The UK is not a main partner in the scheme.
There is a knock-on effect of not being part of these two schemes. It means the UK is not in a position to examine, report on and influence two additional projects which are related to Ecall:
- Era Glonass – the Russia-wide emergency call and road-side assistance system which is due to come on stream in two weeks time – in which important lessons are being learnt.
- Schemes in India, China and Brazil. In Brazil, particularly, a pro-active government is pressing on with a mandatory telematics scheme to, among other things, reduce car theft. The lessons from this scheme place Brazil in pole position for telematics applications.