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As the new car registration figures for May this year have been released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT), showing a drop of 99.7% year-on-year, Andrew Burn, partner and head of automotive at professional services firm, KPMG, explained: “Given the current circumstances, that car sales in the UK have plummeted further is unfortunately no surprise.

“Looking forward, the challenge for suppliers will be contending with low volumes and fluctuating schedules. There is an expectation that many manufacturers will adopt a demand-led model, although this will continue to be impacted by uncertainty around volume – it is extremely unlikely that we’ll return to pre-COVID-19 levels for the significant future.”

Despite this rather bleak – yet realistic - outlook, the firm is looking to the future with an urge to seize the opportunity to push the green agenda. Reportedly, it is urging business and political leaders to act more proactively and collaboratively to drive transformational change to respond to the risks and opportunities posed by climate change, and the transition to a net-zero economy.

Back in June 2019, the UK claimed it would end its contribution to global warming by 2050, with the response from the business community remaining patchy and inconsistent. KPMG is attempting to persuade them to use the response to the pandemic to seek strategic advice on how to transform, carry out a climate risk and opportunity assessment, and adapt to mitigate the risks and take advantage of the opportunities available in a low carbon economy.

Bridget Beals, director of power and utilities at KPMG UK, explained: “Achieving the UK’s net-zero targets in a period of profound economic instability will require transformational change across all sectors of the economy. By 2022 at the latest it will be mandatory for all UK listed companies and large asset owners to report on their risk exposure and management. Policy and regulation changes will undoubtedly drive the agenda forward, but different legal levers will create a raft of potential risks, so it’s incumbent upon businesses to lead the way, rather than waiting and responding.”

Supporting mobility

KPMG has made two senior appointments in an effort to bolster its mobility services business. Dr Sarah Owen-Vandersluis has been promoted as UK head of future mobility, and Edwin Kemp has been appointed UK head of automotive strategy.

Owen-Vandersluis has over 20 years of experience advising organisations on a variety of key topics such as diversification of income streams and development of partnerships between the public and private sector. She has held a variety of senior positions in the industry, previously leading KPMGs UK public sector mobility practice, advising transport authorities on the future of mobility with a particular focus on transport authority strategy, implications for infrastructure and services, and development of business cases for new initiatives such as car-sharing and technology partnerships.

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Her new future mobility team is currently led by Ben Foulser, director of government, infrastructure and digital, and Eddie Ataii, director of corporates, financial services and energy.

Owen-Vandersluis explained: “The future of mobility is fundamentally changing the way goods and people move, and breaking down sector barriers to drive new forms of collaboration. This change is being accelerated as technology evolves and government’s decarbonisation targets draw closer. If anything, we believe that COVID-19 will accelerate previous trends towards digitisation, customer-centricity and zero-carbon.”

Alongside his new role, Kemp (pictured below) is also an associate director within KPMGs Mobility 2030 practice that advises clients across a wide range of sectors. In recent years, Kemp has advised clients on the financial, business model and operating model implications of future mobility.

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Kemp added: “The issues and challenges surrounding the automotive industry and future mobility more broadly are evolving both in the UK and globally. I’m looking forward to helping clients understand these challenges and strategically navigate them to keep pace with the rate of change we’re seeing.”

Richard Threlfall, partner and global head of infrastructure at KPMG, concluded: “Sarah and Edwin have taken on instrumental roles at what is a crucial time for many industries. They will significantly strengthen our capability in this area, drawing together years of expertise and multidisciplinary capabilities from KPMG to help our clients evolve to face unprecedented levels of change.”