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Home / News and Insights / Insights / Auto-biography: Standing up for the Auto sector with Hayley Pells

Auto - biographyIn the fourth interview of the series, Toby Richards-Carpenter speaks with Hayley Pells, the Policy and Public Affairs Lead at the Institute of the Motor Industry. Formed in 1920, the IMI has been supporting those who work in the UK motor industry for more than a century, currently representing more than 100,000 automotive professionals. As Toby discovers, Hayley is not only an industry champion, but also provides a vital connection between the automotive sector and Parliament, at a time when the next key policy decision is likely to be just around the corner…

1. How did you get into what you do?

Let’s work backwards from my current role. As the Policy and Public Affairs Lead at the Institute of the Motor Industry, I act as the liaison between Parliament and our organisation, hence I am one of the links between government and the car industry in the UK. My prior role was as Policy Manager at the IMI. This was more of an internal role, looking at how policy changes would impact the industry. However, given the scale of regulatory and other changes in the motor industry, it became apparent there was a need for bilateral discussion, hence my role evolved to what it is today – we went from listening to actively engaging.

As an example of what I do, the recent MOT consultation was a big moment – there was a ministerial direction to increase the time period before a car is due its first MOT from three years to four years. We used data-driven evidence to illustrate why this was not a good idea. The conclusion was that the government agreed with our position and decided to keep the three-year period. The consultation continues in relation to modernising the MOT test for electric and automated vehicles, and we will continue to feed back the views of expert stakeholders and the experience of our members to government.

I am also a published author – my latest book on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles has just hit the shelves. It is published by Routledge, an established academic textbook publisher, and I’m proud of that. I’ve been writing within the automotive space for about 15 years, really gearing it up about 10 years ago. I am a former vehicle technician – I used to have a small workshop in Wales – but as children came along, I came ‘off the spanners’ so needed more primary income. Initially I wrote for the IMI’s magazine a lot to get my name out there, and from that I progressed to writing technical automotive textbooks.

I have a long-term involvement in the Federation of Small Businesses, as I was a small business owner myself. Initially I volunteered for the Wales policy unit, got voted in, and would overrun the meetings with motor industry issues! I advised town councils in Wales on EV charging, recommending ‘destination charging’ as best suited to their needs. It’s a system that has worked well for the National Trust in Wales. Fast superchargers are good on trunk roads, but in quaint market towns a larger number of discreet chargers, which take longer so people can do things and spend more time in towns, are a good solution. I then got put on the UK policy team of the FSB, and brought motor industry concerns from an independent aftermarket perspective to Westminster. When the role with the IMI came up, most candidates tended to have a manufacturers’ background – I brought something different, as not many candidates had ‘spanner experience.’

How far back do you want to go? I started out in the RAF as an air cartographer. Google it…

2. What do you know now that you wish you had known at the outset of your career?

I wish I’d known how transferable technical skills are, and that if you get a qualification in a technical role, that isn’t a limitation. So, if you’re vehicle technician that doesn’t mean you need to stop at that. Without my entry-level qualifications in the motor industry, I wouldn’t be an internationally published author today.

When I speak to caregivers, teachers, parents and relatives, they want the best for those they are caring for, and a common phrase I hear is that they want more for those in their care than for them ‘just to be a mechanic.’ And that’s sad as for me, as it gave me huge opportunity.

Higher education has a reputation for being the route to opportunity – degrees are always considered to be transferable. We need that understanding in further skills education as well. Getting skills and qualifications confused is something that happens, but what a technical further qualification does is it benchmarks where your competency level is up to. From there, you can be plugged in at the right level and build from there.

3. What legal issues do you encounter in the course of your work?

We have regulated spaces within the IMI’s work. For example, education is regulated and we need to ensure compliance. That said, the automotive industry generally has a light hand of regulation, other than generally regulated areas such as health and safety, electrical, fluorinated gas within air conditioning units, and so on.

It will be interesting to see how the regulatory framework evolves in relation to private transport, for example as vehicles require greater access to personal data. Already most cars have the ability for you to input in your personal address into the sat-nav – that has GDPR implications.

At an international level, the 2023 the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order, replacing the previous Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation, has seen a gap emerge between EU and UK regulation, and realistically we’ve got a better deal than the EU when it comes to who can have access to manufacturers’ data. An important differentiator between the UK and EU regulation is that we include digital tools in the Block Exemption, ie diagnostic equipment, setting out who can buy it and have fair access to it.

The Competition and Markets Authority gets involved to prevent a monopoly emerging over who can repair a car. For example, if you need to change an injector to an engine, you don’t just need to fit it – to prove competency, you need access to data to show that it works. So the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Order is careful to protect the motorist, whether you choose to take your car to a main dealer or an aftermarket garage.

4. Where do you think the UK automotive industry is heading in the future?

It’s really exciting! We are looking at increased manufacturing within our borders, and battery capacity increasing. I’m relieved to see the relaxation on the rules of origin as without it the resulting tariffs would price people off the road.

A workshop in 10 years’ time will be incredibly diverse, even more so than today. It will need expertise to deal with technology spanning 60 or 70 years. I don’t know of any other industry needing the diversity to go from working on, say, a 1960s VW Beetle to the latest Tesla. So if you want an interesting career which is full of change and also respectful of our history, that’s the motor industry! For my part, I have a 1954 Ford parked next to a Tesla on my driveway, and I truly celebrate this diversity.

Whilst there are concerns and challenges regarding skills availability, the motor industry has always attracted exciting people who never want to stop learning. It has always been a sector of continuous learning and fast-paced technical developments – you know, we have evolved from carburettors to common rail to direct injection – and we need a recognition of these skills from outside the industry.

That’s why the IMI launched its ‘There’s More To Motor’ campaign, in order to champion the industry, start plugging the skills gap, and make people aware that this isn’t just an industry for school leavers. There’s something for everybody in the motor industry – it’s equally an industry for the work returner and the career switcher. So the campaign is a toolkit helping to address the perception of the industry as a career option – and what drives perception is the marketing within the industry. Partly due to vacancies in the industry, customers face a waiting list at virtually every workshop in the country, so it’s a vital campaign.

Hayley Pells

Hayley Pells MSc CAE FIMI is a renowned figure in the automotive industry, celebrated for her leadership and profound commitment to gender equality and advocacy. With a Master of Science, her expertise extends beyond a traditional automotive technician role to include a strong focus on sustainable practices and innovations. As a Fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry (FIMI), Pells is a pivotal force for change, driving forward initiatives that promote inclusivity and diversity within the automotive sector. Her work emphasises the importance of creating a more gender-balanced industry, aiming to inspire and empower women in automotive professions. Through her advocacy, Pells is shaping a more inclusive future for the automotive world.

 

 

You can find out more about Toby’s legal expertise on our website. If you need advice or assistance in relation to your business or any of the legal issues mentioned in this article, please feel free to contact Toby who would be delighted to hear from you directly, or visit our automotive homepage.

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