Opinion : Time to start looking ahead?

Jaguar Land Rover now building cars with social distancing

Back at the beginning of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I made the decision that, as the lights went out in the car industry across the UK, we’d shift the emphasis of AROnline‘s editorial stance from covering current news events to a more nostalgic approach. The Memories series of articles followed, and you seemed to be delighted by a selection of street scene and carpark images, harking back to simpler (although not necessarily better) times.

During the ensuing weeks, the Memories articles attracted record-breaking numbers (for AROnline) of you onto the site, and for that, I thank each and every one of you. However, as the UK’s Automotive sector is now gradually resuming production, with Jaguar Land Rover (above) for instance now building cars while observing social distancing and the rest of  us attempt to pick up our lives where we left off in March, it feels like the right time to switch the news back on – and look at the future of Memories.

The idea that life for everyone is going to be the same as before March 2020 is probably unachievable in the short term – possibly even forever. Politicians and commentators talk about the ‘new normal’ and, having been one of the lucky ones who managed continue working from home throughout the ‘lockdown’, I can certainly see a future where many more people (who can) will end up working without the need of an office – and quite so many face-to-face meetings.

For many of us, these have been tough times indeed with businesses closed up and customers – through necessity – staying at home. Many employees are currently on furlough, and a considerable number of those might not have jobs to go back to. For all of you and your families in this situation, I genuinely hope it’s temporary, that all of those predictions of impending economic catastrophe are being overplayed and that we bounce back strongly, Alan Partridge-style. We all need a positive right now.

Anyway, we’re all facing uncertain times. But the car industry is doing all it can to kickstart its power-up. While we hear that dealers are opening up on 1 June, many garages and service centres have worked through the pandemic keeping those who were still driving on the roads. A number of UK car factories are already up and running, building motors to satisfying pent-up demand in a market that’s been in stasis. UK sales in March were down 40% and collapsed by an astonishing 97% in April, but the reality is that most of these are deferred, not cancelled, sales…

However, things are going to be different. Social distancing will be a thing for the foreseeable future, foreign holidays are likely to be off this year and we’ll be watching the pennies going forwards. Let’s hope some of the positives to have emerged over the past few weeks stick around – communities have come together, we’re talking more to long-lost friends, and we’re caring more about the NHS, key workers, and the importance of people who actually keep the country moving and put food on the table.

As for AROnline, I’m happy that so many people found comfort and entertainment from our pictures of the past, but I’m wondering whether it’s time to draw a line under that and concentrate on reporting a car industry that’s about to go through some very challenging times. Over the past few weeks, we’ve proved that we can make huge changes – and achieve in days what we once thought would take months or years to achieve. The world’s services didn’t come to a stop, despite the challenges, the lights stayed on and food continued to make its way into the shops.

So, is it time to look forwards rather than backwards? Or can we do both? Let me know…

Swansea 1978

Swansea 1970 (above) versus Swansea 2020 (below)… The new normal?

Swansea 2020

Keith Adams

29 Comments

  1. It’s good to see car production start up, it’s good for jobs and the economy. But do we really need many new cars to be built. I’m not sure we do. My newest car is four years old (bought at four months old not pcp) and there is no reason for me to be thinking of replacing it for many more years yet – why would I?
    Not what people want to hear I know, but my money will be staying in my bank.

    • But you’ll be out of fashion! And, er, that’s it I guess. Good for you. I’m sticking with my 16 year old Rover 45 (6 years in my care), as long as it continues to serve me well.

  2. I think a balance can be struck, with forward thinking to the fore but with reference to the things that were great in the past and which need to be incorporated in the new normal.

    I hope that more nostalgic images of towns can be shown, but there must also be lively debate about the future, which I have no doubt readers will have both suggestions and comments to offer.

  3. I think both looking at the future, and harking back to the past is the epitomy of this website. The British car industry still exists…. Just, and still needs reporting on.
    JLR are In discussion with the government for a £1billion loan, which although keeps jobs can the British state afford to do it, or the talk of 0% interest mean we can?
    The history of British car industry, and the memories page show those changing faces of the public’s buying habits, and also those regional variances.

  4. The car dealers must be very relieved to be able to sell cars again on June 1st, particularly as they have been unable to sell cars for 9 weeks, In particular it must have been very hard for independent used dealers who don’t offer servicing and MOT facilities and rely on buying and selling used cars and seeing their business dry up.

  5. The industry will need to adapt in order to grow.
    However, if Aronline becomes just an industry report website, here is one regular reader who will be looking elsewhere for his nostalgia.
    And that would be a real shame

  6. In the 1970 Swansea picture, there’s a VW Fastback on the right – in fornt of it, is that an A50 Cambridge or a Ford Consul? Quite a survivor, anyway. I vote for a balance – some forward looking stuff and some nostalgia.

  7. There are certainly very few 20 Reg cars on the roads since the lockdown kicked in! I bet the Salesmen cant wait to get back to work – they will have missed getting their monthly sales bonus’s. Perhaps there will be some genuine great deals in the offing – but not for me at the moment.

  8. If anything, this has shown that everyone owning and running around in their own tin boxes was surplus to real requirements and a major drain in the planet. Please let’s consider the future seriously and that’s not just “lets make lots of electric cars”! That’s how can we share the expense for ourselves and the planet by intelligent use of intelligent cars. Say the car gets ordered, drives to your house when you want it, UK you use it and then it makes it own way home when you’re finished.

  9. Hi Keith, just point out the 2020 picture is Buchanan Street, Glasgow, looking north from Argyle Street, not Swansea. It was pedestrianised in the late 1970s.

      • My first thought on seeing the picture was that it was Buchanan St., but like I said not certain. Somehow the gradient as it rises toward the Royal Concert hall wasn’t apparent. And I’m infrequently in Glasgow. More of an Edinburgh man myself.

  10. Looking ahead to what? Thanks to brexit, what future does our car industry have?

    It isn’t just being locked out of European markets, it is being locked out of European supply chains. Cars are very hard to make profitably and if companies have to waste money filling out paperwork, they will simply shutdown their plants and move.

    Brexit made me angry, now it just makes me sad. We are throwing away what remains of our manufacturing and for what? A blue passport?

    • You may have missed the goings on over the last 50 years, but most of our manufacturing has already been “thrown away”; initially on the altar of European integration – countless UK factories closed as manufacture of their products was moved elswhere in Europe; and latterly to the Far East.

      From the news announced today, Nissan/Renault certainly don’t seem to think that the UK will be ‘locked out’ of European markets or supply chains; but then, Europe has had a decreasing importance for the UK manufacturing sector for some years now:)

      The future seems rather brighter now – the future is Global, not strapped into the protectionist regional straightjacket of the last 50 years.

      On the subject of the photos at the top of the article, it had already struck me (before reading the comments) that it was odd that some of the ‘new build’ 1960s buildings on that street appeared to have been demolished by 2020 and replaced with 19th century ones!!

      • You’re mixing things up, as some areas of British industry were in terminal decline long before any of of the UK joining the European community – remember we’re not all ignorant voting fodder here.

        The future is global but one isolated island isn’t much against a continental power bloc, again remember we’re not all ignorant voting fodder here.

        Funny how the pro-Brexit trolls are suddenly posting here just after the Billionaire tax dodger clique took a hammering in the press, once again, remember we’re not all ignorant voting fodder here.

    • Thanks for letting the remember ignorant voting fodder here know what’s the billionaire tax dodgers forget to tell them.

      • Not mixing anything up at all., and neither am I a troll (any more than I regard you and Bartelbe as ‘remainer trolls’)

        We have seen Ford move all production of cars entirely out of the UK (mostly to other EU factories), move van production to Turkey, and are shortly to close the engine plant at Bridgend, with production transferred to other mainly EU factories. Peugeot closed down the last remaining Rootes Group factory at Ryton to move production to France, BMW sold off a large chunk of the plant at Cowley, and left insufficient space for MINI production to expand into, so some models are now being built in Austria and The Netherlands, and Cooper Tire have now transferred production of tyres for passenger cars from Melksham to Serbia(causing 300 redundancies) and following on from other tyre manufacturing companies closing down or reducing their UK production facilities in favour of transferring production elsewhere in Europe. We have seen MAN trucks take over ERF and close the UK plant and transfer production to Germany, Massey Ferguson shut the Coventry tractor factory and transferred production to Beauvais, McCormick closed the massive former International Harvester factory at Doncaster and moved production to Italy.

        I am not the one who is ignorant here, and neither are those who see great opportunities for the UK in the wider world marketplace for those who don’t have their heads in the sand and wish to take up the challenge.

        I find it funny that the first response of fans of the EU is resort name calling. Don’t you have a proper counter-argument??.

        As I said in my previous post, Nissan and Renault don’t appear to agree with your view.

        • I should ignore the posts of A Nonomus, Clive . They never make sense, and contribute nothing to the discussion

        • Just clear up some of the points, BMW didn’t sell off parts of Cowley, that was under the asset strippers BAE. Secondly, Ryton closed due to underhanded tactics, which our government could have done but decided to work by the EU rules. Peugeot were to move production to Slovakia from France, but the french government with pressure from the unions offered them cash to keep the French plant open, at the behest of Ryton. Very much like the British government not offering grants to BMW to refurbish Longbridge, which ultimately put the kybosh on Rover. The trading part of the EU was not the issue with most of those who voted to leave, it was the issues surrounding immigration. If Maggie hadn’t thrown us under the maastrict bus and used the veto, the EEC would have remained just a trading block. The idea that free trade works and benefits the masses as per Adam Smith’s wealth of nations has been proven to be wrong in many thesis since it was initially published. National interests, and the wealthy will always prevail in looking after their own, and multi nationals will operate where they see cheapest or get subsidies to do so. America is a perfect example of this system. Trump blames China, but jobs were lost because American corporations outsourced their manufacturing to China because it was cheaper.

          • You tell him, though as a drooling sycophant to people who don’t care if he lives or dies it won’t cut any ice.

            Clive remember the rule: If you don’t want to be treated like an idiot, don’t act like an idiot.

        • Most of those aren’t anything to do with the EU, so

          Don’t forget the British workforce has gone from the most over-protected to some of the worse protected, so it’s easy to move production elsewhere.

          In spite of all the flack said by some here exceeded Mini actually exceeded expectations for demand.

          You might think you’ve not ignorant, but you’re still sounding like a poor pathetic deluded idiot. Insults are needed because are are so much in denial.

          Your remark about great opportunities for the UK in the wider world marketplace betray your ignorance as so many countries will rather made a deal with a continental power block rather than a small insignificant island lead by an idiotic buffoon voted in by brainwashed Trumpist Puntinisa wannabes like you are as I can’t see any Billionaire tax dodgers wasting their time here.

          By your logic Usain Bolt should have shot himself in the feet so they could heal & be better for running with than before.

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