Amazingly, it’s that time again – hasn’t this decade gone quickly? It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was ringing in the new millennium, keeping a watching eye on my Commodore Amiga to see tha the clock would actually click around to 2000 without any problems at all.
Mind you, if I could see then what I can see now, I’d have not believed what was going to happen during the ‘Noughties’. For a start, at the beginning of 2000, we still had a German-owned major British manufacturer, with a shiny new car just launched and the possibility of some exciting follow-up models. The 75 might not have tugged the heartstrings of the average thrusting young sales rep. but it was a beautifully engineered saloon that showed genuine promise and, from there, we were going to see the 35 and 55, as well as the 21st century MINI. What could possibly go wrong for the British industry?
Well, as it happens, quite a lot. Sadly, during the following five years, it seemed that anything that could go wrong did… and, although the MINI and Land Rover went on to succeed split apart from Rover, the truth is that the day BMW sold Rover represented the signing of its death warrant. You can, of course, argue that Rover was finished anyway, but I still believe that, had Pischetsrieder managed to hold sway and the Quandt family maintained their nerve, the Rover story could well have been rather different today.
Instead, Rover is a dead marque, getting dusty in Tata’s bottom drawer, while MG lives on in China. Longbridge is on life support, with promising signs that it will continue as an assembly site from late 2010 – but, other than that, the promising Rover line-up of 2000 contrasts sharply with today’s graveyard.
But less of that…
New Years are for looking forward and it’s good to see that, despite an awful lot of scepticism about the MG6, we may well have production here again in 2010. Indeed, as you may have read elsewhereon AROnline, there’s some promise in that new car but, as our correspondent in China makes clear, the MG6 has one or two drawbacks that need sorting before it goes on sale here.
Other things to look forward to in 2010 – hopefully – will be the end of the Scrappage Scheme, which has taken so many useable interesting old cars from us. I know it’s helped out the new car boys and many people who have taken advantage of the scheme are blameless for doing so, but I still feel like crying when shown some of the beauties we’ve lost during 2009.
Hopefully, too, we’ll see the end of the recession in the UK and some return of consumer confidence, underpinned by more prudence in government, in banking and among ourselves. The recession has been devastating for some of the industry’s more charismatic players. We’ve probably lost Saab for good, Volvo seems likely to be bought by the Chinese (just like Rover), and many others took a step closer to shutting down too.
However, despite all that, I think it will continue being good times for us car enthusiasts. Pre-2001 motors remain on the old two-band tax system and pre-1973 cars don’t pay anything at all – and that will always be a good thing. Yes, it should be a rolling cut-off date for classics but, the way I see it, the fact we have any concession at all is a good thing, and we shouldn’t necessarily put our heads above the parapet by bemoaning the cut-off… After all, they could just tax us all.
Moreover,despite the constriction of supply because of the Scrappage Scheme, secondhand cars – especially in my beloved banger category – have never been cheaper and we should rejoice the fact. Yes, petrol and diesel are creeping up again, but running nice old cars on the cheap is still very much achievable in this country and we should make the most of it.
New Year’s resolutions? I always make the same one: to buy less stuff – by stuff I mostly mean crap old cars – but, although last year that resolution was busted by the end of January, I reckon I have slowed down considerably this year and so, for 2010, I hope to continue this march towards being sensible.
Besides, the Polski-Rover SD1 should keep me occupied now it’s home. It’s bound not to be a bed of roses – and I do like a bit of drama in my life.
As always, I’ll take a moment to thank you all for your continued support. AROnline wouldn’t be the same without your input and encouragement and, although I can be criminally slow to answer your emails, I will get round to them – as well as try and get the mountain of new material that’s been submitted recently published on the site.
Anyway, Happy New Year to you wherever you are and here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2010.