Byline: Alistair Darling
Many of us have a car and most of us has an opinion about it - from its impact on climate change and energy use, health and pollution, congestion and safety, taxation and the price of fuel, public transport or private. The list goes on.
Yet people's desire to travel with ease and buy products from around the globe mean that the need for sustainable transport provided by cars, buses and trucks of all sizes will never go away.
The industry which designs, manufactures, sells and disposes of vehicles is more than 100 years old. It is highly dynamic and at the forefront of innovation.
It continues to evolve and improve. It is probably the most sophisticated industry in the world, from the advanced technology under the bonnet to the complexity of world class processes and logistics which have to be managed by vehicle manufacturers, both inside the factory and beyond into the global supplier network.
And of course, it is the world's most globalised sector - take the example of Mini, which is now on sale in more than 70 countries with production exceeding 200,000 cars annually from Oxford, double the original plan.
The industry in the UK has seen significant foreign direct investment and high exports. We have over 40 vehicle makers - more than any other country - including seven of the world's volume producers.
Last year we built over 1.6 million cars, double the number produced in 1982.
Altogether, automotive products make up 12 per cent of our export of goods and the sector, including components, creates pounds 9.8 billion of value added by some 222,000 employees.
Overall, the UK is Europe's second biggest market and fourth largest producer of vehicles. The West Midlands lies at its heart and is responsible for a quarter of the UK's output.
The story is one of remarkable adaptability and resilience based on continuous development and openness to world markets.
For example, BMW Group's Hams Hall plant was built to meet the company's worldwide demand for four cylinder petrol engines, with pounds 400 million invested to date.
It has since announced a decision to assemble a new generation engine for future Mini and BMW 1-series variants involving transferring jobs from Brazil, a relatively low labour-cost location, to the technology rich environment of the UK.
BMW, and the many other companies who have chosen to invest in the West Midlands, have a host of highly-skilled suppliers on their doorstep - from Prodrive, Arup and Ricardo, each of which is an internationally-renowned engineering design firm, to the many specialised design, prototype and low-volume suppliers in the region.
Meanwhile, Ford invests over pounds 1 billion in research and development in the UK and sources 25 per cent of its global engine requirements here, including 50 per cent of all diesel engines.
Dagenham's diesel centre boasts over pounds 550 million manufacturing investment by Ford. …