Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and 2019 in review

Merry Christmas from AROnline

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Here we are – another year older and probably not much wiser. It’s certainly been an interesting one – what with months and months of debate and recrimination about Brexit and the future of our car industry, there has certainly been lots to write about. I’ve already mentioned the ‘B’ word once, but I think I’ll refrain from doing so again… at least for a few sentences.

The good news is that AROnline powers on and, despite MG Rover being little more than a fading memory these days, it’s been a busy old world in our universe. The remnants of Longbridge were finally consigned to the scrapheap, first with the SMTC being closed, and then the confirmation of the site being sold for redevelopment. Given we thought it was curtains in 2005, I suppose, while it staggered on, it gave gainful employment for a few, while SAIC decided what it was doing with MG. And that was simple: to become an SUV manufacturer (like everyone else), and a full-time importer.

Luckily, away from toy town and with the real-world car manufacturers, some interesting new UK-produced cars entered the fray. I drove the Range Rover Evoque early on, and found that they’d done a great job of refining and renewing this highly profitable SUV, and that was just what JLR needed in a backdrop of economic doom and gloom. Other new cars from the company in 2019 included facelifted XE and Discovery Sport, both of which were usefully incrementally improved – and great indicators that us Brits can still make a decent steer.

The biggest news was the arrival of the Land Rover Defender, which I’ve yet to drive, but which should be good. As with all of the above-named JLRmobiles, there’s no full-EV version yet, although plug-ins will come on stream in 2020. The company set the early running in the EV sector with the I-Pace, but is in danger of being overtaken by its rivals – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will be in full-on offensive mode getting a raft of EVs out before 2025, and I fear JLR may well be overwhelmed, given the scale of investment needed. The good news is that the I-Pace is still leagues ahead of the disappointing Audi E-Tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC (at least in terms of dynamics and range), even if it’s still outshone by Tesla, which bodes well for the future (especially next year’s Jaguar XJ-E).

Defending the faith?

Land Rover Defender 2020
Land Rover Defender 2020

There is no sugar coating the fragile state of the UK industry right now, though. Jaguar Land Rover seemed to lurch from one financial bad-news story to another, while rumours of a PSA takeover mounted. In the end, JLR’s fortunes seemed to turn on the back of some quite tough efficiency measures, while I suspect PSA may well now be otherwise engaged with its humungous merger with the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group.

Speaking of PSA, French-owned Vauxhall in the UK staged a remarkable turnaround in terms of its overall health. Sales might have been down, but profitability has returned to the Griffin, and the medium-term future of the company’s Ellesmere Port plant seems reasonably settled. As well as the continued production of Astras up there, it was great to see that Luton started churning out PSA-based vans in decent quality and quantity. The model range is taking shape now – and it will be interesting to see how the new Corsa sells when it arrives here next spring.

The arrival of Ineos on the scene, and confirmation that the Grenadier 4×4 will be built in Wales should also provide some cheer. There’s a gap in the market vacated by the old Defender, which the new one doesn’t quite fill. If they get it right, this could be a significant development. It should also counteract the sad news that Dyson called time on its car-building ambitions in the UK. Clearly, breaking into the EV market cold is a financial undertaking beyond even a company of this size and resourcefulness.  Honda used the business of scaling up its EV business as a reason for announcing the closure of its highly efficient factory in Swindon. The news of the closure came as a hammer-blow to the area – I really do hope someone will fill that vacuum.

Onwards and upwards for 2020

Finally, the Brexit debacle has been settled. And as the sun sets on 2019, I sincerely hope that the country – all of us – can move on, and make a success of this new economic reality, whether we like it or now. While the indecision was ongoing, and with Westminster limping along disastrously, it felt like industry was seizing up as we had no idea what was going to happen. At least we do now – and already there are signs that consumer confidence is picking up. It will be needed if falling car sales during 2019 are any indication of where the UK has been.

So, I actually feel some hope that 2020 will be a better year than 2019. Let’s face it – it can’t be any worse.

Bringing it back to AROnline before I sign off, the site continued on its merry way in 2019. It still attracts a small and enthusiastic following, and it’s good to know that it’s established as the place to come for BMC, Leyland and Rover knowledge and information. I’m still finding new things to write about, and there are still lots of undiscovered treasures out there to share with you all. I fully intend to develop the site further in 2020, and would really like to move into the world of video to back up the words that have served this site so well since 2001. Something in print should also manifest itself… stay tuned.

But for now enjoy Christmas and New Year’s break – hope it’s happy and peaceful for you all!

Merry Christmas from Keith Adams and Mike Humble!
Merry Christmas from Keith Adams (right) and Mike Humble (left)!
Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)

10 Comments

  1. Thanks for another year of great topics Keith & Mike and hope things in the car industry pick up now Brexit is really going to happen.

    Like you say the future of MG seems to be in SUV imports and electric versions. I still preferred my 2003 HHR ZS and can’t get my head round the new Chinese ZS Crossover. I never thought BL/MGR would close down completely in my lifetime, but as the saying goes “nothing is for ever”

    Merry Xmas & Happy New Year to all at aronline

  2. I thought one of the reasons put forward for ceasing production of the Defender was that its separate chassis did not accord with EU safety (crash/damage absorption/etc) regulations. Is the Grenadier chassis-based? If so, how will it get around these regs? Or – with us out of the EU (when?) – is that no longer a consideration? Will the UK military buy it?

    • INEOS Automotive has paid MB Tech (Daimler Mercedes-Benz) a handsome fee to develop Projekt Grenadier off the back of the Mercedes G-Class (G-Wagen) chassis/platform – which itself is built by Magna Automotive in Austria. It will be very interesting to see the final design considering they are very far advanced on development in Germany yet have shown no official styling proposal, showcar or prototype to date. BMW are official engine supplier for Grenadier. The Australian military has a supply contract with Daimler Mercedes-Benz to provide military-spec (bare bones) versions of the G-Wagen down under so it will be interesting to see if INEOS can negotiate military supply deals with the MOD and other countries with Grenadier. 2020 will be a big year for INEOS Automotive.

  3. Merry Xmas to all our fellow Leyland-holics.
    I am spending Xmas here in Norfolk.
    No, not at Sandringham with the royals, but in Stalham, just down the road from Potter Heigham where John McDonnell has a holiday home.

  4. Also Infiniti announced they would not just cease building cars in Britain but they would pull out of the market completely.

    • When did you last see an Infiniti? Except for Lexus, the Japanese have had no luck in Europe with bigger cars and most aren’t seemed as desirable as German cars. Also while it will be painful in Swindon when Honda pull out in 2021, sales of the Civic were in freefall, it was too expensive and radically styled for its market sector, and changes to EU tariffs meant it was cheaper to make the car in Japan.
      However, we do have to celebrate the birth of a car assembly industry in Wales, even if Ford are closing their engine factory in Bridgend, INEOS are to create 500 jobs building an SUV and Aston Martin ate creating 700 jobs in St Athan, so all isn’t bad.

  5. I don’t think a separate chassis is a problem, eg Suzuki Jimny, Isuzu, Ssangyong, etc – the issue with the old Defender was bulkhead crashworthiness? The UK MOD seems to like spending huge amounts on hefty armoured vehicles, although you can also get ex-MOD Isuzus, but there must be a market for fast lightweight nimble military vehicles like the original Jeep.

  6. Keith Keep up the good work! I love the Longbridge comments there are still plenty of stories to be told!
    2019 Ends with me not owning a 75 or ZT for the first time since 2003
    22 cars later my low mileage zt 260 collected from Longbridge in 2005 went to a new home.
    My 75 diesel tourer went the week after pol .
    Never say never but it’s hard to find a good one.
    Easier to remember Cars Gone By with 50 years of Austin’s Rovers, MGs, and associated marques enjoyed.
    I am driving a VW SUV and a Jaguar XK as we approach 2020, looking forward to what comes next!

  7. Well done Keith and all the regular contributors – and a very happy new year to you all.
    Just on the Defender thing – I have a LandRover specialist chum who has a friend who makes Defender chassis – I have been told he has a contract to supply the Military until 2030.
    It should be a year of car changes for us and BMC/BL features in the picking list. Annie wants to find a prestine MG ZB to replace the TD. I want to get shot of (the excellent and wholly commendable) 3 year old Fiat 500 and replace it with an Alvis TA 14 – or an Alfa Brera Prodrive – or a big 30’s Wolseley – or a Berkely T60 – or a Rover 75 V6 – or a ……..oh’ I don’t chuffin know do I?
    The little Wolseley Nine stays though so I won’t have to change my handle!

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