JCB boss warns relying on electric cars would leave Britain at the mercy of Beijing

The boss of JCB has revealed that digger orders ground to halt at the height of the pandemic, forcing the billionaire into furloughing thousands of staff and tapping the Government’s emergency loans scheme.

Lord Bamford expressed his shock after JCB stopped production as the pandemic hit. He said: “[In early March], my business went from having orders on hand of £1.5bn to by Mar 20, orders on hand of virtually zero. It was so dramatic. That sort of thing never happened in the history of our business before.”

The firm also tapped the Treasury’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility for a £600m loan.

The JCB chairman’s comments came as he backed calls by his son, Jo, for greater Government support in developing hydrogen-powered vehicles instead of those powered by electric batteries.

With more than 70pc of the world’s batteries manufactured in China, Lord Bamford warned about Whitehall “groupthink” that batteries are the solution to meeting the Government’s net zero carbon targets.

In response to whether relying on batteries leaves Britain at the mercy of Beijing, he said: “Yes, it does. It really does. I don’t know how wise that is.”

Meanwhile, the billionaire industrialist backed plans for a UK sovereign wealth fund to invest in companies hit by the crisis.

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