Classic car sector launches trade association to save it from “poorly focussed environmental legislation”

Historic and Classic Vehicles Alliance

A new trade association based in Bicester for the classic car sector has launched to campaign on behalf of the highly-skilled engineers, restorers, craftsmen and parts suppliers which it says now face uncertainty over their livelihoods.

The Historic and Classic Vehicles Alliance (HCVA), which has its headquarters at Bicester Heritage in Oxfordshire, says that more than 100,000 jobs are at risk as a combination of bureaucracy and poorly-focused environmental legislation threatens Britain’s world leading classic vehicle industry.

Leading figures in the classic vehicle industry fear complex new rules around exporting and importing cars and parts to and from the EU and widespread misunderstanding of the environmental impact of vintage motoring are damaging owners’ confidence and enthusiasm.

They are calling on British politicians and regulators to use their post-Brexit regulatory independence to help grow this valuable sector of the economy.

The HCVA wants to protect and promote the sector and secure its long-term future.

The ‘not for profit’ organisation intends to campaign on behalf of individuals and companies in the classic vehicle world including specialist restorers, dealers, parts suppliers and a broad cross section of the multi-billion-pound industry.

The sector’s contribution to the UK economy is huge. According to the HCVA, annual turnover including substantial international trade is estimated at £18.3 billion, the three-million-strong British classic fleet is valued at more than £12 billion and annual tax revenue generated for the exchequer is close to £3 billion.

The industry has clusters of specialists operating in the West Midlands, Lancashire, Kent and Sussex, with only five per cent of activity based in London.

The trade, in which British craft skills and engineering excellence lead the world, supports around 113,000 jobs in thousands of specialist small businesses and supply chain firms. It also provides training places and apprenticeship schemes, giving opportunities to young people.

HCVA director Harry Whale said: ‘Our sector is a great British success story and has been for decades. But it’s in serious jeopardy and may not survive to continue providing opportunities for future generations if we don’t act now. In a world of mind-boggling bureaucracy, with environmental and other legislation looming, we need to ensure the voice of the industry and owners is heard and understood by regulators and those in power.”

Fellow director Henry Pearman, who owns Eagle, a car specialist and restorer, said: “Classic and historic vehicles invariably bring a smile to the face of people who see them on our roads or TV screens. There are more than a million passionate owners in the UK and around 10 million people who are interested in these vehicles which really are an important element of our national heritage.”

HCVA advisory board member Emma Crickmay, Joint Managing Director of Frank Dale & Stepsons Ltd, the oldest independent specialist of Rolls Royce and Bentley worldwide, added: “It is absolutely vital we take steps to preserve jobs and encourage new generations into pursuing fulfilling careers in our industry. It is so important that conditions are created that allow us to develop training programmes, support skills transfer and boost diversity. We are very keen to see a boost in apprenticeships – it’s investment in the future. There is a passion, enthusiasm and devotion to the craftsmanship, materials and traditional skills of the individuals who work tirelessly restoring classic cars. These vital skills preserve historically and culturally important rolling pieces of mechanical artwork which educate and delight owners and enthusiasts.”

Supporters of the new alliance include former transport minister and East Sussex MP Nus Ghani who has classic car trade firms in her constituency. She said: “The classic and historic vehicle industry is a great British success story that gives pleasure to millions and it would be disastrous if it suffered serious damage through neglect or ignorance. The HCVA has my wholehearted backing.”

The MP for Ludlow, as well as Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne, is also a supporter as is Formula 1 designer Professor Gordon Murray.

HCVA membership is open to businesses and individuals from across the sector including established dealers, marque specialists, restorers, parts specialists, competition preparers, importation and registration services, transport and storage specialists. The association will also welcome vehicle owners and enthusiasts as well as specialist auction businesses, historic racing and rallying organisations, classic car tours, concours and events organisers, museums, specialist insurers and car finance providers.