UK is not an island in the car industry

Despite calls this week from the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, MPs should be under no pressure to buy British-built cars, and nor should the rest of us. It is true that the French and Italians buy a disproportionately high number of domestically built cars, with the result that Parisian streets are choked with Citroens, […]

Despite calls this week from the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, MPs should be under no pressure to buy British-built cars, and nor should the rest of us. It is true that the French and Italians buy a disproportionately high number of domestically built cars, with the result that Parisian streets are choked with Citroens, Renaults and Peugeots, and Rome is awash with Fiats. This, in the eyes of the AEEU, is an example of good citizenship.

But by choosing to illustrate the point with these two countries, the AEEU has picked nations whose car makers are the least integrated with global partners. The nationalistic buying habits of the consumers are mirrored exactly by the stand-alone policy of these two states’ car makers.

The situation in Britain is different. Our traditional domestic brands are in non-UK ownership and are sourced from plants across the whole of Europe, with British engineers closely involved in product development. At the same time, Japanese manufacturers establishing here are interested in sales to Europe as a continent, not just to the UK as an island. Car manufacturing and design in the UK is part of a tightly knit web that extends not only into Europe but across the world.

Exports of cars from the UK are at record levels. And the range of models and variants demanded are now so great, it would be impossible and uneconomic for any one nation the size of Britain to build all of these.