Ford’s new focus

We have become so used to hearing negative headlines about the UK automotive sector that you almost have to pinch yourself when the national media decides to create a ‘good news for British car industry’ shock.


There was, indeed, something a little odd about hearing Ford being lauded for its commitment to spend £1bn to turn its engineering centres in Essex and Warwickshire into global repositories of environmentally-friendly technologies.


One of the encouraging aspects of Ford’s announcement was its commitment to use the full range of its considerable brand portfolio and the engineers who work for each one in a united push towards more efficient vehicles of all types, from the mass-market Focus to the luxury Jaguar.


If the company is true to its word, a good deal of the work that will underpin this global transformation will be done in the UK.


Is there a danger, however, that in our delight at hearing some apparently good news for UK auto we lose sight of the true picture of hardship and decline?


It would be possible to portray Ford’s investment in the UK R&D base as no substitute for the real business of making cars in large numbers, with all the very obvious economic benefits that brings.


It would be possible to do that, but rather misguided.


In truth, it should not be hard for the UK to feel at least cautiously optimistic about where it stands regarding the automotive sector of tomorrow.


This is in no way to downplay the damage, both economic and social, caused by the exodus of significant production centres from the West Midlands in particular.


That damage is real and will be difficult to repair.


The formula for success will mix world-class production – which the UK still does very well – with world-class R&D, which it also does well and with the help of initiatives such as Ford’s can do better still.


Andrew Lee


Editor


The Engineer & The Engineer Online