The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] For green cars, UK seeks Korean talent

British auto specialist says talks ongoing with Korean battery makers to source more components at home 

By Cho Chung-un

Published : Oct. 18, 2017 - 16:14

    • Link copied

The United Kingdom has been enjoying rapid market growth and demand on British cars in recent years. But at the same time, the rise of future technology, particularly on green cars, has been a big concern.

Based on its long history and heritage, the UK has been a major producer of internal combustion engines, making 2.5 million engines a year, which is higher than the 2 million vehicles that the country manufactures annually.

But in fear of losing that proportion of petrol engines to electric battery cars in next five to 10 years, the UK government has been making large investments in developing electric vehicles. And it hopes to see more Korean companies taking part, especially battery makers, calling them the world leaders.

Jay Nagley, an automotive R&D specialist for Automotive Investment Organization, under Department for International Trade of UK (Department for International Trade of UK) Jay Nagley, an automotive R&D specialist for Automotive Investment Organization, under Department for International Trade of UK (Department for International Trade of UK)

“Clearly, South Koreans are one of world leaders in battery manufacturing, so they are competitive indeed these companies we are talking to. We’d be very happy to work with Korean companies on this,” said Jay Nagley, an automotive R&D specialist for Automotive Investment Organization, under Department for International Trade of UK. “There are talks ongoing because there will be more batteries to be made in UK,” he said in an interview with The Korea Herald on Tuesday, without mentioning the names companies in business talks.

Noting on the 246 million pound fund named “Faraday Challenge,” Nagley said that the UK government is very focused on building a gigafactory to produce electricity for growing number of full electric cars.

London has been serious on green cars. Every new single-deck buses will be all electric in the capital, while the iconic red double-decks will be all hybrids. Starting next year, all new taxis will become plugin hybrids.

“We are looking for the best possible technology for batteries for next six or seven years of time which then lead to manufacturing. It is open to any company, and we hope also to have Korean companies.”

Nagley was in Seoul to attract Korean auto component makers to take parts in the country’s fast-growing auto industry. Under the slogan, “Automotive is great,” the British government, in cooperation with the auto manufacturers, is seeking more foreign investment to expand its automotive chain. The campaign, launched on Wednesday in Seoul, came after its decision to leave the European Union which drew industry concerns that they will face hefty tariffs on components they used to import from other European countries.

To avoid damaging its competiveness due to Brexit, carmakers should source more components at home, experts have said. But it can be the fresh opportunity for foreign investors as well, citing its fast market growth.

“The UK car industry has been growing fast, growing by 17 percent in terms of manufacturing, and we are here for the great opportunity to have UK car industry and Korean car industry work together,” he said.

Since 2006, manufacturing by car value has gone up 61 percent, exports gone up by 94 percent, R&D is increased by 258 percent.

Over 15 billion pound of foreign direct investment FDI was poured into UK auto industry since 2012. This year, auto components sourced at home reached 44 percent, and the figure is growing.

Other industry advantages are the labor flexibility, high productivity and good labor relations, Nagley said.

The UK automotive workforce produces 56 percent more per hour than in 2009 and is the most productive automotive sector in Europe in terms of added value per worker, ahead of Germany, according to the British embassy in Seoul.

“There hasn’t been more than one day strike in British car factories in this century. Good labor relationship is what attracted the investment,“ he said.

Nagley became associated with the auto industry by joining Porsche in the late 1980s, and worked as a consultant for car manufacturers including Jaguar, the Volkswagen Group and Hyundai in Europe through own his business. In 2014, he joined the Automotive Investment Organization, established by the UK Automotive Council, to attract new plants. The council, launched in 2009, is consisted of senior figures from the automotive sector and the government to increase car assembly in UK, to address supply chain and to increase amount R&D being done in UK automotive sector, the embassy explained. 

By Cho Chung-un (