Driving back home from work this evening, Radio 4’s PM programme made for spine-chilling listening. OK, things have not been good for some time, but it seems that we’re coming closer to seeing some tough decisions being made. Let me make one thing clear: I’m not talking about Westminster and its disturbing lack of security; as far as I am concerned, let them get on with it.
No, this news was much worse, much worse: I am, of course, referring to the story that it looks like Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory in Coventry is going to get the chop.
If this is the case, then it is going to be devastating news for the City – after all, Browns Lane employs 2,000 workers, and if they lose their jobs, then it is going to make a massive dent in the local economy. Still, the car industry is a global business, and Ford are a global player in dire straights right now. Its share of the European market is well under 10 per cent, and it has now fallen well behind rivals such as Renault and Volkswagen. In fact, it is now behind General Motors.
So, the name of the game is rationalization, and it could well be that Browns Lane will be the first UK factory to get the chop. What this means for Jaguar, though, remains unclear. Obviously, Ford will not be abandoning the marque – it has invested too much, but what it does mean is that the remaining Jaguar factories (Halewood in the North West and Castle Bromwich in Birmingham) will be under close scrutiny. Sales of the X- and S-Type need to take off, yet that looks unlikely, given that diesels have only just been launched (to appease Euro buyers) and the US/UK exchange rates remain poor (meaning Jags are expensive in the USA).
Personally speaking, if Ford pull Jaguar out of the UK,
it would be a disaster of tragic proportions…
So, does that mean that Jaguars will have to built in the USA (or somewhere else) in the future? It seems inconceivable to us in the UK that a Jaguar could ever be a Jaguar if it were to be built overseas, but would foreign buyers care? It’s that word again – globalization – and brand values are what count, not where the car was built. No-one cares that Audi TTs are built in Hungary, or BMW Z4s hark from the USA. What counts is that their brand values remain intact. Well, that’s the theory. Personally speaking, if Ford pull Jaguar (and let’s say Land Rover) out of the UK, it would be a disaster of tragic proportions… to me, anyway. One of the things that makes Jaguar what it is, is that it is a British manufacturer, building British cars.
Take the UK production out of the equation, and it erodes the brand’s values massively. Some Jaguar diehards would argue that these have been on the wane since the Lincoln LS-based S-Type appeared…
I know one thing – if Ford closes Browns Lane and start building XJs somewhere else, some bright spark might start thinking that this could work for MG Rover. And as we all know, that would never work… I’m still trying to imagine it – a Rover not built by Brummies.
The thought of imported MGs and Rovers (forget CityRover for a moment) really, really, really, really does not bear thinking about.
Oh, and just one final thought. What the hell brought us here, and surely it can be stopped now. Aren’t we supposed to be the world’s fourth biggest economy?
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.