We had an interesting selection of cars at AROnline Towers this weekend. I swapped my Dacia Sandero Access for an MG3, kindly lent at the last moment by the nice chaps at Longbridge, while a family member, who finds himself working as a car hack elsewhere, was smoking around in a Honda Civic Tourer. After a brief run in his car, he said to me, ‘my car’s more British than yours.’
I paused before responding, deep in thought, but then found myself unable to argue with him. Coincidentally, I had been on the launch of the Civic Tourer back at the end of 2013 and so had the chance for a chat with the Engineering Team responsible for converting the five-door hatchback into five-door estate – in a nutshell, the estate conversion was conceived and designed here in the UK; much of the dynamic development took place in the UK and Europe, and – as you all know – the Civic Tourer is also built here at Swindon. Good news all round, then – especially as, high price aside, the Tourer’s a pretty good estate, with clever seat-folding and rear suspension set-ups as well as styling which you could never accuse of being generic.
AROnline’s readership has picked over the MG3’s British credentials ad nauseum, even before it went on sale here in the UK. Here’s my take on it. It was styled and designed in the UK, launched in China, developed in China and the UK and, currently, if you buy an MG3, you’re likely to get a car put together in Longbridge from sub-assemblies shipped in from China. However, a number of cars have also been shipped in in their entirety from China in order to meet demand.
It’s a tough call to work out what exactly defines Britishness in a car these days, as the industry is so global. After all, pretty much all cars made here fall under the umbrella of overseas-owned companies. India owns Jaguar Land Rover, Germany owns Rolls-Royce, Bentley and MINI and China owns MG. We have ‘Japanese’ cars made here, such as the Civic, with huge amounts of British input – while the pride of Washington, the Nissan Qashqai, was styled, designed, engineered, developed and fully made here – yet, few people would see the brilliant new Qashqai as a British product.
That’s the crux, here – the nationality of what you drive is not cut and dried and, for those who wish to buy British, the choice of cars at your fingertips is far, far wider than you might think. You might not like the idea that Britishness is not what it used to be – it’s very different today – but our industry’s as healthy as it’s ever been and it’s an important international manufacturing and development hub – isn’t that good news for everyone?