Enabling SMEs in the automotive sector to trade, grow and create jobs

A Q&A with Jim Higginbotham, managing director, asset finance, Wyelands Bank


Q. What contribution does the automotive sector make to the UK economy?


A. The automotive industry is important to the UK economy. In 2017, the sector turned over £82 billion and employed some 856,000 people across the UK.

The majority of companies in the sector are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).  They export, are highly specialised, and are part of global supply chains. 

But, because of this, UK automotive SMEs can often find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to payment. 

For these businesses, a lack of funds creates a working capital squeeze, limiting their ability to trade and grow.

However, as SMEs are often ambitious and a vital source of innovation, we need to do all we can to provide them with the finance they need to grow.


Q. How can Wyelands Bank help automotive companies?


A. We help small and medium businesses to trade, grow and create jobs.

We do this by freeing up working capital that would otherwise be tied up in other assets.  We get to know our clients’ businesses – providing the right combination of asset-based lending and asset finance.

We work with customers who are trading around the world and we’re building our support for businesses at all points in the industrial and manufacturing supply chain.


Q. What contribution does the sector make to UK imports and exports and where are the fastest growing markets?


A. Our research with Global Trade Review, the trade and finance media company, reveals that three out of the top five fastest growing export markets for the UK automotive sector are outside Europe.

These markets include the USA, Japan and Australia where UK exports are growing at 4.3%, 3% and 2.6% respectively (see figure one).  The Netherlands and Italy make up the remainder of the top five where exports are expected to grow at 4.3% and 2.1% per year to 2021.


Figure one: the UK’s fastest growing markets for automotive exports

Rank (fastest growing)


Growth rate a year to 2021 (%)

Value in 2017 (US$)

Project growth per year (value US$)


The Netherlands






























In all, automotive exports to these five markets were worth $17.9bn last year.  The projected growth could generate an extra $677.7m a year for UK exports to 2021. 


Q. How large is the UK automotive export sector?


A. The research also shows that at $54.7bn, the automotive sector is the second largest export sector by value in the UK. This is behind machinery and components at $55bn.

Automotive exports as a whole are expected to grow by more than 1.7% annually to 2021.  This makes the UK the fourth fastest growing automotive exporter globally, behind Mexico, China and Spain respectively.


Q. What about imports?


A. UK automotive imports were worth $85.6bn in 2017 – an increase of more than $5bn from 2016. The UK imports an estimated 42% of the value of the cars it exports and has a large trade deficit in the automotive sector.

Looking at components, the UK has a trade deficit in gear boxes, dashboards, brakes, windscreen glass, rev and speed monitors, and bumpers and bumper parts. Only in radiators and engines does the UK export roughly what it imports.

The situation is similar for powertrain and assembly components where the UK has a deficit across all areas other than car seats.  Parts in deficit are safety belts, chassis with engines, silencers and exhausts, car bodies, suspension and shock absorbers, tyres, steering wheel and columns, and drive axels. 


Q. Are there any risks ahead?


A. The research shows that the US trade tariffs are a serious threat. The UK has a surplus in automotive trade with the US and tariffs may endanger the projected growth in the sector.

However, the global economy as a whole is set to grow and this is likely to increase the demand for cars, benefiting the industry in the UK.

Given the current environment, it’s important the sector’s businesses are well placed to take advantage of new opportunities.

But in order for companies to do this, they need working capital. 

It is only by providing better access to funding that we can support businesses to trade, grow and create jobs.

Why Wyelands Bank

We understand that freeing up working capital is a major challenge for many businesses, and we offer a range of flexible services to help.

Our vision is to develop partnerships that provide opportunities to grow together, by providing access to finance, tailored to each client.


Find the right business finance solution

Get Started

Email us at: