“Our Brains and Our Brands”
Speech given by Lord Paul Drayson on 8th September 2011 at the Low Carbon Vehicle Conference 2011 Rockingham Circuit
We meet here today at the heart of a storm buffeting our industry, whipped and fuelled by not one – but three separate forces. Each reinforcing the other to create times of unparalleled volatility and challenge.
First – the big one – climate change and the need for us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. We know this problem isn’t going away – and we know we aren’t doing nearly enough to fix it.
Second –– economic turbulence and financial instability- the one we thought was reducing but seems to be back with a vengeance. Just as the car industry was getting back on its feet after the dark days of 2009, this past August has come as a nasty shock to consumers and businesses alike.
And thirdly – the shift East. The financial crisis of the past few years has only accelerated the shift of economic and hence political power from the west – and the market leadership of the United States and Europe – to the east and in particular to China. Now the world’s largest car market – as well as the major creditor nation to the rest of the planet.
So – these are interesting times to be in business.
As Plato should have said –
“crisis is the mother of invention”
“so if you are in a crisis – you’d better start inventing”
And that’s what this conference is all about.
Inventing a better way of getting from A to B.
I’m guessing you are already convinced that low carbon vehicles are the future given that you are here at this conference.
But like me – you are probably wishing that future would hurry up and arrive. Its frustrating how despite all the efforts, incentives and very many conferences – there are still precious few low carbon vehicles driving on our streets today. And even fewer high performance ones. Certainly less than I hoped when I addressed this conference as Science Minister two years ago.
But my message this morning is a simple one. Stay the course. Don’t lose faith. Change is coming – its hard to see right now for all the noise and commotion taking place – but underneath the hubbub the changes forced by globalisation and mother nature are shaping a new economic reality that is so fundamentally altering consumer attitudes that any business not supplying low carbon products in the future - will be in serious trouble.
The pioneers and innovators like you and me will reap the rewards.
Success is just a question of sticking with it until that moment arrives.
And planning for success – so that when it does come – you can fully exploit it.
The key, I believe, is to exploit fully the strengths that we have here in the UK.
Our brains and Our brands.
By brains – I mean this country’s leadership in innovation – probably best represented by the incredible dominance that we show in the motorsport industry – an industry that depends upon engineering excellence and inspiration.
As the current President of the Motorsports Industry Association – it gives me great pride that:
Britain has produced more Formula 1 World Champions than any other nation: 10
More British drivers have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans than those representing any other nation, including France (31) v (26)
British-based constructors have won no fewer than 34 F1 Constructors’ Championship - well ahead of Italian (16) and French (3) based teams.
And 8 of the 12 current F1 teams are based here in the UK.
Those statistics back up what I’m saying about the quality of our talent and our engineering.
But we also have tremendous racing heritage – and if there is one thing that a strong automotive brand needs – its that.
Brands like Aston Martin (officially the worlds coolest brand– even better than Apple) but also Jaguar, Lotus, Morgan and Mini transcend time and are constantly renewed by an active motorsport programme.
The old saying “race on Sunday – sell on Monday” as true today as it was when the e-type was launched 50 years ago. Its why Lola – the world’s most successful racing car constructor – also recently celebrating 50 years – and Maclaren - recently launching their new GT car have managed to build successful businesses from their success on track.
Now, as the world shifts towards a low carbon future, we need to ensure that these strengths in our brands and in our technology remain relevant to the new world and in tune with what the modern consumer wants. That consumer wants performance with economy and minimal environmental impact. And the consumer is global now.
Whether you are an established manufacturer or a new company seeking to carve out its niche – now is the time to establish your green credentials– to invest in the technologies that will allow you to exploit the growth in the low carbon vehicle market that will be accelerating in the coming years.
Fifty years ago the e-type was the breakthrough vehicle of its day. It went faster, cost less and looked better than anything else available – including a Ferrari.
Its still a great car – I’m racing one at Goodwood next week.
We need to achieve that kind of breakthrough again – a car that goes further, costs less and pollutes nothing.
We have the brains and the brands to do this – but we could be doing it even better.
We need to leverage our strengths more. We don’t have to change – we just have to use what we are good at more effectively.
So what needs to be done?
Firstly we need a closer working relationship between the car industry and the motor sports high performance industry. Having worked in both it has amazed me how little they talk to each other. That’s why the MIA has organised some motorsport – car industry technology swap days – to highlight the opportunities for working together. Do get involved in these days.
Secondly we need from government an understanding that motorsports is a massive R&D resource in high performance engineering that the automotive, aerospace and other industries can tap into and to reflect that in its policy making.
Thirdly we need faster change in motorsports itself and we need new championships to showcase the new drivetrain technologies – such as hybrids and EVs. Otherwise we run the risk of motor racing being the last bastion of the internal combusition engine. As Britain is the undisputed leader in motorsports – we need to be the global leader in green racing too.
Motorsport has to be a racing laboratory for the engineers to show off the neat new ideas they are working on – not just a moving billboard for the marketing men to promote a fizzy drink. Hydrogen fuels cells, hybrids, pure evs, moveable and active aero, nanoscale energy storage technologies, rapid charging systems – they can all be tested and proven and their development accelerated through motor sport competition.
And we need to make the link between the technologies used in automotive – both on the track and on the street – to their application in other sectors – such as aerospace – defence and clean energy.
Generating profits in these sectors from the innovation and high profile achieved from success in racing.
The more the UK can network to partner and form consortia to bring together the expertise that Britain uniquely has and bring this to the global market – the stronger we will come out of this storm – and the bigger our share of the future LCV market will be.
For me this vision of the future is so powerful – I’m not just talking about it – I’m doing it with my own business - and I urge you to do the same.
To tell you more about this it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Robin Brundle CEO of Lola Cars who is going to talk to you about the exciting new project that Drayson Racing and Lola are working on together – a 200 mph electric race car.
Robin – over to you.