I’ve been pondering what to say about the news that Ford is considering selling both LandRover and Jaguar (following Aston Martin – and possibly Volvo). Bryan Appleyard echoes some of my sentiments in The Long Slow Death of the British Car.
I feel quite sad – but also angry – that successive governments and car companies have failed to maintain a vibrant UK car industry. I know all about over-production, failure to invest, cost of development, transport costs from UK to rest of world, etc etc. But shouldn’t there be more to life – and a company’s heritage – than economic arguments.
Is the writing really on the wall for mass produced luxury cars – big engined beasties don’t seem viable with all the focus on environmental issues. I suppose it is quite 20th century to feel a national pride for specific car makes – so many of which have already faded away.
But, I do hope that someone will invest and help these companies adapt to the challenges they face. Not least because there are tens of thousands of UK families depending on them (thoughout the supply and retail chains as well as in the companies themselves). The government needs to recognise the importance of jobs in manufacturing and engineering – or we’ll be a theme park with jobs only in the media and entertainment.
I would also love to see new car companies emerge in the UK with a vision for modern motor transport powered by more environmentally sensitive propulsion. There are companies emerging in countries such as India and Brazil – so why not here too?
Is it viable? Well, it seems to me that the old model of massive, global car companies isn’t necessarily sustainable. They face huge investment costs in developing and launching new models to stimulate market demand, coupled with increasing legislative constraints (safety, environmental, etc), congestion and other issues.
It is hard for such businesses to change with the speed and flexibility that appears necessary.
I believe we also need new shoots – which should be encouraged and allowed to grow – to deliver the personal mobility of the 21st century. The question is whether society and governments have the will to encourage a new automotive future.
If we are encouraging local small producers of cabbages – can’t we do the same for cars?