Opinion : Deutschland über alles?

Mercedes-BMW-Audi

AROnline has chronicled in much detail the decline and collapse of British Leyland during the two decades since the site first appeared on the interweb. However, not just MG Rover at Longbridge, but other major factories, which also contributed to Britain’s vehicle production capacity, have also disappeared.

The Browns Lane, Coventry plant of Jaguar and the Rootes/Chrysler/Peugeot plant at Ryton, also in the Coventry area, have closed and the now Stellantis-owned Vauxhall plants at Ellesmere Port and Luton plant have switched from car to van production – even Ford has ceased manufacturing vehicles in the UK. These were the factories owned by supposedly well-managed companies that did not skimp on investment, so why did it go wrong?

I would argue that what went wrong is that, for about the past 25 years the market, has preferred German cars. When company car drivers started demanding Audis, BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes in the 1990s instead of Ford, Rover and Vauxhall, the writing was on the wall.

Vauxhall Omega
Who wanted a Vauxhall Omega when they could have a 5 Series instead?

Coincidentally, this was around the time BMW took over the Rover Group. Did Rover really fail because its products were no good and its staff next to useless as some pundits would like to maintain, or was it a victim of changing circumstances and buyer habits?

Ford and General Motors had nurtured the company car market, fighting tooth and nail for market share and then they were suddenly cast out into the wind as German cars suddenly gained favour. Fleet buyers no longer wanted mundane rep-mobiles, but cars adorned by the badge of a premium Teutonic marque.

Ford tried to up its game with the Focus and  Mondeo, while getting its Jaguar subsidiary to take on the German brands with the X-Type and S-Type. General Motors did likewise with Saab.

Rover 75

As for Rover, its new 75 model was in direct competition not only with Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but with the cars of parent company BMW. Motoring historians argue over when the Rover brand was finished, but it was probably in this period. No matter how good the 75 was, it was now the product of a brand that had suddenly gone out of fashion after a promising period in the early 1990s that had encouraged BMW to purchase it outright.

Perhaps the real reason the Rover 75 failed was not because of the BMW Chairman’s faux pas at its launch, but because it wore the wrong badge. That there was demand for a car smaller than the 3 Series from the BMW Group, was exemplified by the subsequent success of the 1 Series.

The belief that German cars have indestructible build quality and are ultra reliable is now widespread. It has become the mantra for many a motoring journalist to repeat at regular intervals – whether that is actually true or not, it has seeped into the public consciousness. For many buyers the main requisite for purchasing a new car is that it has to be German.

This mindset that German is best has ruined the best-laid plans of many motor industry executives. It could be argued that it did for Rover, and made Jaguar an endangered species.

Jaguar S-Type
The Jaguar S-Type failed to turn around its maker’s image

When it was launched in 1999, instead of winning sales from rival brands, many of the new S-Type’s sales were of the substitutional variety, reducing volume of the larger XJ saloon. This process was repeated with the launch of the smaller X-Type. Instead of selling 200,000 Jaguars of all types in 2002, the actual total was around 126,000, and it was downhill from there.

This was blamed on Jaguar’s retro styling, so the TATA-owned Jaguar introduced a series of cutting edge-designs from Ian Callum’s Styling Team that were a cut above the anodyne German offerings. Yet no matter how much praise they received, nor awards for reliability, the sales did not lift enough to enable Jaguar to be a major player in the market for premium cars. Sales of the XJ saloon dwindled to a trickle and it was finally axed in 2019. The future for Jaguar we are told is as an upmarket electric brand. Whether that comes to pass, or Jaguar is heading for extinction is anyone’s guess.

As for Saab, General Motors hopes that it could expand its niche customer base and compete in the premium sector were over by 2010 when the American giant baled out. Was it quality issues, or was the Swedish concern squeezed out by the trio of German manufacturers?

I would argue that what is shaping today’s car market is not who actually produces the best overall product, but which manufacturer the public think is producing the best product. And at the moment the German manufacturers are ahead. But perhaps you, the reader, have an opinion on this.

Feel free to comment…

Ian Nicholls
Latest posts by Ian Nicholls (see all)

51 Comments

  1. Where do I start in my rant about various aspects of modern motoring life.

    Let’s begin with speeding. No I am not going to complain about being caught for speeding as I haven’t had a speeding fine for over five years. And the reason why I haven’t had a speeding fine for over five years is because I listened to the advice of someone who took a speed awareness course.

    When you drive into a 30mph zone, slot the gear stick into third, don’t let it labour away in fourth.

    That way you can control the speed much easier. The comfortable speed for a car in fourth gear is around 35mph, and if you do 35mph in a 30mph zone, sooner or later you will be caught speeding by the agents of law enforcement. I frequently drive through rural villages at 30 mph, with a queue of cars building up behind me, but I have no intention of incurring 3 points on my driving licence and a £60 fine because some knobs behind me think they are immune from prosecution.

    Some drivers won’t exceed 50mph on an open road, but can’t drive below 35mph in built up areas and think they are safe drivers who can’t understand why they have been caught speeding.

    Remember, built up areas are inhabited by children who might stray too near the traffic.

    How would you like it if your child was hit by a car doing 35mph in a 30mph zone because they thought it wouldn’t do any harm or they would be caught?

    We might not like speed limits and view speed cameras as revenue generators for Government, but the law is the law, and you can take measures to protect your licence. Remember there is nothing macho about speeding through a rural village, and if other road users want to speed, let them, because they will be caught sooner or later.

    And on the subject of speeding we come to the subject of middle aged motorcyclists, or organ donors as one of my friends likes to refer to them.

    Now I am of the age that I can remember when motorcycling was for young people on a budget.

    Now it has become a symbol of mid life crisis, when ageing men try to capture their lost youth. Or the youth they never had, by taking up motorcycling with all the paraphernalia that entails. Wearing leather that covers up their paunch, doing strange things with what’s left of their hair and generally imagining they are Dennis Hopper or Peter Fonda in ‘Easy Rider.’ Macho or laughable, take your choice?

    Various reasons are cited for all this, but the real reason, not that anyone will admit it, is the need for speed. Middle aged motorcycling is about being able to attain three figure speeds on rural roads devoid of effective policing due to budget cuts, because nobody likes paying tax and would rather spend the money on a motorbike instead. The same friend who described motorcyclists as organ donors has pointed out that while us car drivers are asked to ‘Think Bike’, it is a shame that motorcyclists don’t ‘Think Car’. When we come to a junction, we make our judgements on our fellow road users at least making some effort to keep to the speed limit. That speck in the distance might be a motorcyclist riding along observing the legal speed limit. Or he might be screaming along at a three figure speed and be upon you in no time at all. Time to change the subject.

    Next on my list is Britain’s love affair with convertibles.

    I recall reading that Britain has more convertibles per head of population than anywhere in the world. I might be wrong of course, but convertibles like motorcycles have become another symbol of a mid life crisis in Britain’s male population. As soon as the sun comes out, even on a very cold day they are out, cruising the high ways and byways of Britain. It’s all about trying to look cool on a budget, driving along in a 25 year old MGF or Mazda MX-5 or some other shed on four wheels, riddled with tin worm and barely scraping through the annual MOT. When the cost of passing the MOT becomes too much, the vehicle is then sold on to some other poor fool who thinks they are getting coolness on a budget. Get real! This is Britain where half the year the climate is wind and piss, and the weather is always foul during school holidays. To put it bluntly convertible drivers are a bunch of posers. There I said it.

    Now we come to the subject of the 40 year exemption from the annual MOT.

    You will soon gather that it is something I am not in agreement with.

    As someone with a jaded, nasty and cynical mind, the exemption from the annual MOT test is an excuse not to carry out essential maintenance on road vehicles that could be death traps, because it costs money, and everybody claims to be destitute, even if they can afford to run a 40 year old vehicle and go on holiday abroad. Just because it is over 40 years old does not mean it is not capable of high speed and it still has to stop itself. Apparently cars could do over 70 mph before 1981. Well fancy that, I never knew that. The MOT exemption is not just for Austin Seven’s and sidevalve Morris Minors, it is for sportscars, Jaguar’s, souped up Mini’s and Escorts and of course motorcycles. The MOT exemption is a Government freebie we do not need, and one that relies on human nature to do the right thing, and that ain’t going to happen when it involves spending money. Give a classic car owner a yard and he will invariably take a mile.

    And finally a rant about modern cars. As I sit in my local cafe guzzling a latte in a tall glass, I watch cars drive up the high street. Most of them are hideous bloated diesel powered SUV’s and Crossovers. What happened to space efficiency and styling. This is a subject touched on by ARonline’s Ian Nicholls here, and I heartily agree.

    Do buyers go into a showroom and specify to the sales people that they want a 2 litre diesel, because diesel is twice as economical as petrol, and it has to seat six people and/or a dog and mobility scooter. No wonder they end up with some hideous vehicle that makes the Austin Allegro look like a style icon. And what is it with slapping a ‘Sport’ badge on everything? I can understand a Rover Mini Cooper 500 Sport, but a Renault Traffic Sport? It’s a van for Christ’s sake!

    Is a Kia Sportage sporty? I think not.

    And as for diesel powered cars. Granted they have improved, but diesels still sound crude, unrefined and should be reserved for use in commercial vehicles. The problem is that when it comes to buying second hand cars, if you don’t want a vehicle that sounds like a 1970’s Royal Mail Commer van, the choice is limited. If I smurf the net for a Jaguar XF or a Rover 75, most of the choices are diesel. I do not, or ever will, own a diesel car. It is the fuel of Satan, the enemy of refinement.

    And now we come to Brexit Britain. If we wanted our country back so much, why are our roads filled with German cars? Clearly there was something about EU membership we did like, mainly German cars at a cheaper price. And on that note I will bid you farewell until next time, if indeed there is a next time.

    • What an earth has Brexit got to do with the fact we buy lots of German cars? Absolutely no correlation at all.

      • Buy British was part of the proBrexit propaganda isn’t-it ?
        BTW buy a Ford or a Vauxhall, you’ll buy anything but British, German mostly and maybe Spanish or French too.
        As already mentionned here and there : buy Nissan !

        • Not that I can recall. Most people don’t really care where cars are made in the UK. Sales figures and trends serve to evidence.

      • The unholy alliance of billionaire tax dodgers & their pathetic bootlicker voting fodder assumed the Germans would be begging for a decent trade deal only to find hey had to do the grovelling, especially as the deal they offered was too close to the existing deal for the leather breaths.

  2. Hmm, ” not which manufacturer is actually producing the best product, but the one the public think is producing the best product”. I’m not comfortable with this statement, it smacks of snobbery and condescension. I suggest that the ‘best’ product is the one people want to buy. It will sell, make money for its producer, and is therefore the best. By definition. Yes, SUVs are hateful, ugly, and environmentally damaging. However, for their manufacturers, they are currently “the best”.

  3. My take is that the sands are rapidly shifting. Much of what Ian says held true pre-pandemic, but buyers these days are less brand focused than they were. Not through any other reason than delivery delays caused by the semi-conductor shortage – faced with a 40, 50, 60 week delay for their new car, many are simply going elsewhere – to manufacturers who can still deliver.

    That means Hyundai and Kia are doing exceedingly well with their new EVs at the moment. It’s not new either.

    Remember the 1970s when car strikes setup massive delays for domestically produced new cars? The importers, most specifically the Japanese, had a field day. Buyer loyalty only goes so far – if you can’t actually get the product you’ll want, you’ll settle for ‘second best’, often sticking with it when supply issues ease up.

    I think we’re undergoing seismic shifts right now – the market will be very different in 10 years’ time, trust me…

    • Same happened c1981. Ford was on strike, then focused on retail sales.

      Fleet buyers went foreign – and FWD – for the first time and Renault 18, Vauxhall Cavalier etc got a sales boost.

  4. The ‘German is best’ cult mantra took hold with the condescending voiceovers of ‘Vorsprung Dutch Technik’ and was bolstered by the ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’.image featuring a second-hand Golf, reinforcing the message about reliability to those not quite in the new car market. Mercedes sat back and lapped up the image whilst spending very little on advertising all this time. I remember British Leyland adverts of the 80s extolling the virtues of Supercover, a free breakdown and recovery service for Leyland’s (brand new!) cars. The message was clear enough!!

  5. Interesting on Auto Mondial they reviewed a Genesis and Lexus as left field alternatives to Mercedes and BMW – in purchase price terms probably better value but perceived brand value/PCP costs might tip the balance. It’s a bit like the old “no-one got sacked for buying IBM” argument – fleet managers playing safe so their colleagues don’t complain? Was Rover a failed brand – have a look how well Roewe (because SAIC couldn’t use the Rover brand) and, even more, MG are doing these days – finally coming on leaps and bounds and in the top 10 in many markets.

    Another bad old British Leyland days anecdote I came across recently – when they closed the tractor plant at Bathgate in 1982 the German MD of Deutz was very keen to buy it to assemble his tractors in. When he and his team turned up at the gate striking pickets wouldn’t let him in – he got in eventually but it put him off the idea and many jobs were lost (the tractor business subsequently went to Marshall of Gainsborough on a low volume basis but failed a few years later).

  6. There is also a view that US macho/MBA with no real experience management styles aren’t very good/don’t work well in Europe. GM made a mess of Saab and look how well Stellantis are now doing with Vauxhall and Opel under French(and Italian) management. Ford screwed up with Premier Automotive and look how well Volvo is now doing under Geely and Mazda also seem to be well respected now ploughing their own furrow again.

  7. Looking back at the ‘consumer products’ I have bought during my life, many have been of foreign design if not of foreign manufacture. My first four tape recorders were Grundigs (German, the first when I was 15), my first still camera Kodak (US design if not also manufacture), my next still camera a second-hand Braun Paxette (German), my first cine camera Bell & Howell (US design if not also manufacture), my second cine camera Paillard Bolex (Swiss), my two cine projectors Eumig (Austrian), my next tape recorder Sony (Japanese), my later still cameras Pentax, Olympus, Canon (all Japanese) – all my computer related items from the Far East.

    As for cars, Hillman, VW, Hillman, Humber, Ford, VW, VW (my present Fox made in Brazil) – and all bought on cost and basic suitability. None on ‘style’.

    My parents’ cars were my mother an Austin 10, my stepfather a prewar soft-top Opel, two Vanguards, Rover, Hondas. Again, all bought for cost and suitability, not style.

    Today’s craze for four-by-fours is pathetic. Two weeks ago I saw a woman in a Ford Kuga tear the front bumper off a ‘normal’ Mercedes when parking at the local shopping centre. She had no idea of where the left hand side of the Kuga was in relation to the Merc, or to the boundary of her parking space. She drove off without leaving any note on the Merc; but three people had seen her cause the accident and immediately drive out of the car park. The Merc’s owner’s insurance company is now handling the matter.

    As for speed limits, I have put marks on my Fox’s speedometer showing the actual 30 and 40 mph points on the dial. When the needle shows 74 mph I am doing 70 mph. On a regular 65 mile run – through open country, small villages, and skirting Salisbury – there are arbitrary 30, 40 and 50 mph sections of single carriageway, and a short section of dual carriageway without any speed limit signs so 70 mph on it seems legal. Very little logic employed by the council roads departments.

    People will always be swayed by advertisers; it is just the degree of ‘puffery’ in the adverts that varies. Along with purchasers’ own conceptions of what they ‘need’, in reality what they want.

    • The Kuga driver was a bad driver or made a mistake . Nothing to do with the car. We’ve got an SUV, great family choice. I am not swayed by adverts or anything of the sort. One day I’ll aspire to a VW Fox perhaps.

  8. In my opinion Luton is still producing the Vivaro – now a Peugeot-derivative after having been a Renault-Trafic derivative.

  9. I’ve worked in the car sales industry for 5 years and the assumption that German brands are more reliable and better quality has some substance. We had no problems selling 100,000 mile 10 year old BMWs because they often still felt solid and “like new” but would baulk at any Jaguar that’s out of manufacturers warranty because they are almost always riddled with problems, I’ve seen early XFs that aren’t good for anything other then being scrapped, even Volvos tend to have some idiosyncrasies as they get older. The German brands have spent the best part of a century investing in their image and making better built cars, it’s only correct that it pays dividends. Of course, now that a 3-Series or an A4 are as common as a Cortina or Cavalier once were the image as “premium” brands is slipping, and inevitably people will start looking for something different to stand out, which is where the rise of Tesla comes in. But that’s another conversation haha

    • That premium German brands such as BMW are durable is accepted, you expect such, look at the prices of their cars, but the non-premium brands such as VW are only “”middle of the road” ie no better than French cars, a study specifically analysising warranty claims and first-time fixes for VW against other brands was instigated was by a friend with several decades in car retail, the results for VW were not good reading for the brand, he is a very senior head-office manager in a multi-franchise. The study was instigated due to concerns with excessive problems with cars from VW franchise outlets. If you seek durabilty with a non-premium budget, then follow the USA, buy from Honda, Toyota and perhaps Kia or Hyundai, the last two are a serious threat to the Japanese in the USA The USA consumer having long since kicked volume brands from Eu, Fiat Renault Peugeot etc into the scrapyard.

  10. A lot of it is about good marketing and filling out their product ranges And those pesky Germans have done their homework. 20 years ago the likes of Ford and Vauxhall were the go-to suppliers of ‘normal’ family cars, with BMW and Mercedes on the next tier up with a significant price hike. Few models were competing between the tiers – BMW didn’t have a direct equivalent to the Focus/Astra and the A-class was a tall MPV. Nowadays an entry-spec Focus or Astra starts at around £23k, the same size 1-Series or A-Class equivalent starts around £26k. So if you can find or negotiate the extra price you can go from a ‘good ordinary’ model to a ‘premium’ one and that badge kudos is enough to attract buyers. Nowadays Ford and BMW shift around the same number of vehicles in Europe, but while BMW sales have grown, Ford’s have fallen sharply. They find themselves in a rapidly shrinking ‘no man’s land’ between the premium brands and the well-established Koreans. As did GM – its no wonder they sold out to Stellantis. But throw electrics into the mix and it’s an opportunity for re-set of the car market. Will be interesting to follow for the next few years.

  11. In my view the elephant in the room is ‘status’. Yes, the product has to be good but unlike a few decades ago when families were just grateful to have a car – even if it had a Ford badge – society now demands a ‘status orientated badge’. Ian’s article is the best I’ve seen on this subject. The idea that the all German cars are wonderful can easily be challenged. I have a friend who ‘down-graded from a top of the range Merc. to a Suzuki – because the Merc spent so much time at the dealers. For hundreds more such stories, just peruse the web! Another chum had a new Golf and wish he’d didn’t – it was full of ‘gizmos’ that might or might not work. The reality is German cars are fashionable and their advertising and image control is second to none.

    • The change seemed to start around the time of the BL merger, when car ownership began to be accessible to all of the middle classes & even working class people could afford second hand cars.

  12. The old BMC should never have been put into a position which was government insisting they merge with Triumph/Leyland. That probably was the beginning of the end for the whole shootin’ match that became BLMC et al only to be under government control. Product quality ultimately determines what customers are willing to put up with. In the US at the time of the first oil shock from OPEC in 1973, Honda had their first Civic model which was at the dealer showrooms and stole some market share from American cars along with other small imports. Honda earned a reputation for durability so there was value for the money as the port of entry price was about $2200 USD. The car provided very good fuel economy compared to the typical American iron with V-8 engines which were now saddled with air pollution emission controls which in turn affected fuel economy and performance. The Civic was able to pass the US Clean Air Act requirements without a catalytic converter until 1980 when all their cars now required unleaded fuel only but to be fair this was not an issue as the US had shifted the fuel availability of leaded gasoline to unleaded and the Honda still had outstanding fuel economy and performance. And to boot the reliability was built in as Honda took their existing motorcycle technology and transferred it to the Honda automobile production. BMC/BLMC lost traction in the US as their product lines remained stuck in the rear view mirror on a technological level.

    Having said that, all cars are now expensive and some more than others such as anything from Germany. So you may like your Beemers et al, but you pay twice. First in the purchase price and then with respect to maintenance as their parts are expensive. So if you want to go down the German route to owning it’s not cheap. Japanese parts were also expensive but they typically lasted so when it came time to replace a part it wasn’t a regular thing but only after high mileages. BMW earned their place in the market along with other German cars as some kind of status symbol. So you makes your choice and pays your money.

    Getting back to the destiny of Rover, they surely had been coming out of the dark ages with new designs and modern products. It’s a shame they were left on the trash heap. BMW only wanted the MINI which they helped develop and kept it while bailing out of their acquisition of Rover.

    It’s my understanding that BMW’s decision to bail out was surely lack of profitability of Rover.

  13. I wonder if the energy crisis, soaring inflation and a predicted long recession might reduce sales for pointless SUVs and German cars bought to impress the neighbours. I drive a one litre Skoda that’s in the lowest insurance group, returns 50-60 mpg, yet is as well built as any German car, considerably cheaper and if the last one is anything to go by, won’t cause any trouble. Having to park on the street, I wouldn’t want the stress of having an Audi or BMW that I could ill afford anyway.

    • Thats because Skoda is German , its VW . They build Audis and Seats at some of Skodas factories.
      My Skoda is virtually identical in many ways to my brothers Polo we even compared them .
      problem is because its a VW product its absolutely devoid of any character or interest , its the most boring car ive ever had. I bought it for the space basically. and build quailty is nowhere near the KiA I had previously.

  14. GM killed Saab thanks to the same incompetence that they applied to most of their brands in the 1990s and 2000s, willfully failing to understand that Saab’s clientele weren’t looking for a moderately restyled Opel, a trick they also forced on Buick and even Cadillac buyers – and neither of those brands can hold a candle to the Germans either.
    Talking of Swedes though, it’s interesting how effectively Volvo has pivoted away from Ford ownership (much more successfully than Jaguar), and continued its commitment to broad Volvo values, so that it still has a viable place in the market. And sure, Volvos aren’t as bulletproof as they once were, but neither, of course, are MBs.
    Keith is right to point out that all these things are cyclical. Audi, BMW and MB haven’t won the market forever. Tesla is grabbing big chunks at the top, and the Koreans and the likes of Skoda are slicing away at the bottom. In due course, the Teutonic domination will look as historic as Ford’s ownership of the 1970s, or BMC and Standard-Triumph’s pre-eminence in the 1950s/60s US sportscar market.

  15. The days where German cars were status symbols are pretty much over I would say. I’ve last week ordered a new Audi A5. I don’t dislike it obviously but I really tried to buy something left field but on price and spec, the Germans are by far the cheapest via PCP in many cases. I really wanted a Jaguar XF and had the deposit ready to go but a combination of a completely uninterested dealer and in the real world, no real sight of delivery date meant I had to go elsewhere.

    • Exactly this . I would love something different , the new DS4 I had on holiday was a wonderful car , but coming home and looking on my lease site the monthlies are almost twice that of something like a vw or Audi. Dacia also interests me , great cars but when a Nissan qashqai is a hundred quid cheaper a month youd be silly to choose the Dacia . So i think that is whats driving the popularity of the german makes .

      • Dacia is the Renault low-cost brand made in Romania.
        Good cars, now stylish and ever reliable, based on say reasonable technology.
        A Duster is much cheaper than a Qashqai, something wrong in your comparizon ?

        • Philippe : unfortunately , Dacia , although cheap to buy, are worth nothing as a used car : Accordingly , the personal contract monthly price ( on which most new cars in the uk are bought ) is high, hence a Dacia costing nearly as much as a Quashquai in the UK

          • Strange ! The Dacia Sandero is the most sold car in France and the Dacia range is doing more than well in Germany and Italy. And has real value as a used car. The Qashqai 1 was doing well but was killed by the Duster 1 launching. Less comfortable but more value to cost. Qashqai 2 did not sell facing Duster, Kadjar and 3008-GrandLand . I bet Qashqai 3 will not either.

  16. Just a controversial comment ….

    The reason Opel and Vauxhall are now Peugeot and Saab is long dead can be explained in one word

    Lopez

  17. The late Vauxhall Omega pictured, as an example of a spurned Brit, was very much a German car of course – manufactured in Russelsheim by Opel … : )
    But as I often point out, as recently as 2016 UK car production was close to beating the all time record set in 1972 (when three of the big four firms were already foreign-owned).
    Once you adjust for the product mix now being more premium and the reduction in (reduced value) CKD kit production since 1972 – there was a strong case for the car manufacturing sector in Britain of 2016 being as strong as it ever had been.
    During the (long) timescale referred to in this piece factories have closed but others have opened (like Burnaston) or seen their output expand (like Solihull) ….
    Exports did break all records in 2016 – and the trade deficit in cars has been narrow over the last decade (in 2012 it was reduced to zero).
    So not all gloom (though the last 5 years have been dreadful).
    Record-breaking exports (a lot being Jaguar Land Rover and Mini with their “British” branding central to their DNA (plus Bentley/Rolls-Royce/Lotus/Aston Martin etc.) ) suggest there’s still a strong global appetite for British cars as well as German.
    Britain exported more cars even in depressed 2021 (705,000) than in almost any year before 1990, and much more than in the 1950s which are sometimes referred to as a mythical time of vast export industries now lost ….

  18. Eight years ago, I was in the fortunate position to be able to choose a new executive car. The simple fact is the Jaguar sales rep was basically rude to me and made me feel unworthy to be a Jag customer but the lad at the Audi garage did everything he possibly could to get me into a new A6. And, you could have a manual and you can hide the screen when it’s not needed! It’s an accomplished car and way more fun to drive than my Mk IV Mondeo. Weird since I recently found out what an absolute hoot a Focus is!

    • Good customer service can make or break a deal.

      When I was wanting a look at a delivery mileage pre-reg K13 Nissan Micra at my local Nissan showroom the rep kept trying to steer me towards buying a brand new K14 even though I made it plain it was outside me price range.

      The group’s website showed me there were suitable cars available, so I went to the next nearest dealership where they couldn’t have been more helpful, offering me exactly what I wanted & a week later I was taking delivery of the car I was driving until recently.

      When I was part exchanging it for a second hand Toyota Yaris hybrid, the rep again didn’t try to talk me into buying something I didn’t want, even telling it me it wasn’t really worth getting a newer car than the one I was interested in for the mileage I’m currently doing.

      • Some knowledge of a well-established Toyota franchise, the reputation of Toyota means their products attract buyers, there is no need for “smash and grab” sales techniques when dealing with Toyota.

    • @ Mr Steve, the main dealers for JLR in Cumbria) Lloyds) cunningly have franchises for Volvo, BMW and Mini, so any shortfall in Jaguar sales can be made up by the other three brands. Also they sell Hondas, again a brand bought by people who want a car that is supposed to be ultra reliable( which to a point is true) and has good resale. Never dealt with Lloyds directly, but they do have a reputation for professionalism and good customer care.
      However, Land Rover buyers in west Cumbria who want a cheaper used Land or Range Rover and cheaper servicing have long since flocked to Fultons, a used specialist with a large following.

      • The reason that the Peugeot Ryton plant was closed was simply because it was cheaper to make the 207 in Slovakia.
        But conversely JLR have gone from strength to strength and ironically now have their SVO operation on the Ryton site

  19. One of the things I was getting at is there has been a second collapse of the UK motor industry in the past two decades. The first was in the 1980’s and has been variously blamed on poor management, lack of investment and militant unions, depending on your point of view.
    But there has been a second wave of plant closures in the 21st century, the cause of which is harder to define.

    • The collapse of the UK motor industry was in part due to economies in other places where it became the lowest common denominator in terms of cost. India with Tata and China as a come-one, come-all open opportunity to invest in non-union labor forces to make cars and sell them. The Rover Car Company was doomed to market economies for various reasons, not just costs of labor and labor strife. It’s all water over the dam at this point. Similar issues in the US had the POTUS telling Chrysler to merge with Fiat – a huge mistake imho but it happened surely to the detriment of Chrysler and yet they live and have product which people buy out of loyalty, if such a thing exists or they like the product.

  20. I would agree in part that Chrysler had the know how and surely Fiat was on a better financial footing. But Fiat had their own know-how making what they knew best. Chrysler made strides in engineering as one of the Big 3 in Detroit having survived the fallout of other American companies that went out of business. Chrysler bought AMC/JEEP in the late 1980s which probably didn’t help their bottom line but the corporation was then known as Chrysler/AMC/JEEP or something close to that. From their early cars they had several firsts in engineering. They had very high performance engines but so did GM and Ford. A favorite of the professional drag racers were several Chrysler engines especially the big Hemis. Economically Chrysler was failing and bailed out by the former Ford CEO Lee Iacocca when he became the the Top Guy at Chrysler. Later on Chrysler was part of Mercedes-Benz as Daimler Chrysler which didn’t last. Because of Chrysler always on the verge of economic collapse, the merger with Fiat was foisted upon them by the government as a way to stay in business. Fiat which had sales in the US until the late 1970s had withdrawn from our market as it’s cars were rusting out at the suspension making them unsafe and the government worked out a buyback for owners. Fiat came back to the US with it’s 500 car, about the size of the mini but it seems to be plagued with issues.

    • It was a big mistake from Renault to sell AMC to Chrysler : Jeep image plus Renault technology with François Castaing, advanced CAD/CAM … Then Chrysler launched the succesful Vision/Concord range, Stratus, Néon …

  21. The second wave of closures is mainly our failure to join euro and then brexit together with the high cost of having plants in UK. High business rates high energy costs a lack of component supply chain.

  22. Risk on the Sterling . A 10% exchange rate change turns a benefit into a loss.
    Why did Vauxhall and Ford move to the continent ? They could have chosen to close Germany instead, cost are higher than in the UK

    • Cheaper in the short run. Redundancy pay in the UK was considerably less to pay out. Typical Ford short termism! Secondly there was those in Detriot that had been badly burned by the UK in earlier in their careers during the late 70s/80s. At the time Dagenham was closed it was the most productive and highest quality Ford plant in Europe, and in the top three in it’s world production. Dagenham’s management had seen the curtain falling long before and had applied to Detriot to become the new plant for Jaguar when they were planning the X Type. Instead Hailwood got it, which before it closed was one of the worst plants for quality in Fords portfolio, one of the reasons why it had been chosen for closure in the first place! My father recalled at the time that Dagenham was given a lick of paint and tidy up when the senior management team came to see the presentation from the Dagenham management, but he said when they arrived they didn’t set foot on the factory floor!

      • I heard Dagenham was going to need a lot of investment in the near future to get up up to the standard. Supposedly the later Escorts made at Hailwood were built to a higher quality standard as a dummy run for making Jaguars.

        • Not as much as you think, and not any more than Hailwood. Dagenham had been upgraded, especially the press shop, when the Sierra production ended and it was solely producing Fiestas and Courier vans. The actual press shop continued to be in use many years after the main plant closed, producing pressings for both Jaguar, Land Rover and Ford’s plants in Cologne and Saarlouis. My Uncle was one of the consultants working for Ford to identify what work the press shop could do to keep it open.

      • @daveh, if the quality of the 1990 Escort was anything to go by, it was almost as bad as an early Maestro, then Halewood deserved the wooden spoon for its quality. The Mark 5 Escort was noisy, badly made, had starting issues, failing alternators and engine faults and was a big embarassment to Ford, Luckily for Halewood, a big improvement in quality and productivity in the second half of the nineties saw it saved and rebuilt to make the Jaguar X Type.

  23. The Rover 75 died because of poor mechanicals 7 build quality.

    Also, theirs no front wheel drive, in the E & C class Mercedes-Benz.

    ***
    It was BL politics that killed off Triumph, Riley, Alvis, all sportier names than Rover.

      • Actually Alvis may have stopped producing cars prior to the BMC/Leyland merger, it was still part of BL as a military manufacturer until it was sold off in 1981.

    • @ Steven, interesting I still see several Rover 75s and the odd 25 as daily drivers and generally in good condition. I think, apart from HGF, that could be easily sorted out, they were vastly better made than Austin Rover products from the eighties. Diesel 75s were even better as they used BMW engines.

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