I have never walked into a house abroad and felt a swelling of pride on seeing a British-made fridge or cooker.

But the sight of a Jaguar, Land Rover or a Mini – that’s a different matter.

Cars are special, they’re symbolic of a country more than any other goods or product.

I’m sure an Italian, seeing an Alfa Romeo on a street in Sydney, will feel the same way.

A country’s car industry is also a symbol of the nation’s economic health.

The 1970s was a time of enormous industrial unrest and no image sticks in my memory more than the strikes and shutdowns at British Leyland.

A broken car company reflected an economy in dire trouble. Almost as bad as uncollected rubbish in the streets.

Today almost all of our car makers are owned by foreign companies.

Even Aston Martin, preferred wheels of 100% British James Bond, is owned by investors from Italy and Kuwait.

Jaguar Land Rover is run by India’s Tata. But the important thing is that these companies provide jobs.

Accor­ding to the Society of Motor Man­ufac­turers and Traders, 856,000 are employed directly or indirectly in the sector.

And the SMMT says it is these jobs MPs should remember in Tuesday’s Brexit vote. For they could be put catastrophically at risk by a no-deal exit.

This week Jaguar Land Rover announced 4,500 jobs were going at its UK plants. Brexit’s played a part but the biggest blow is a shocking 51% drop in sales in China in November.

Then there’s the drop in popularity of diesel cars which, since 90% of its sales are diesel, has hit Land Rover hard.

JLR boss Ralph Speth has been one of the most blunt commentators on a hard Brexit, warning it could lead to plant closures and thousands of lost jobs.

In October JLR opened a factory in Slo­­vakia which will eventually be able to build 300,000 cars a year.

It’s likely Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich plant will close in the next few years but I worry JLR won’t be able to sustain the remaining Solihull and Halewood plants and keep the Slovak factory, where production costs are lower, at full capacity.

A no-deal Brexit in March would have a substantial and immediate effect, mainly because of the just-in-time method of car production.

If parts are delayed and the production line has to be stopped it costs millions.

A few years ago at a small air­­port near Peterborough, a sur­­prising number of helicopters were coming and going. I asked what was going on.

“They’re taking brake discs to the Honda factory in Swindon because there’s a supply problem” was the answer.

How much does that cost? Less than shutting down the line for a day, that’s for sure.

On the day JLR announced job losses Honda said it was closing its Swindon plant for six days in April because of Brexit.

It’s one precaution BMW is taking among many. It says: “We’ve had to assume a worst-case scenario.

“We build 1,000 Minis a day at our Oxford plant and each car contains around 4,000 parts from mainland Europe.

“That’s four million parts per day and a lot of lorries. We’re sourcing a team of customs experts, updating our customs IT and looking at extra warehousing.”

Companies making relative small numbers of cars: Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin, won’t be badly hit because these are not cars that come off the production line like sausages. It takes 300 hours to assemble a Rolls-Royce Phantom and about 10 to build a Japanese hatchback.

Which brings us to the three Japanese car plants in the UK. Nissan has been hugely successful here but Honda in Swindon and Toyota in Burnaston, Derbys, have never performed as well as hoped.

I worry that their parent companies could use Brexit as an excuse to close UK factories rather than admit their plans hadn’t worked out.

A no-deal Brexit means WTO rules and a 10% tariff on cars crossing the channel each way.

UK car buyers face an average of £1,500 on the price of a new car, says the SMMT. There will also be 4.5% on parts.

But it’s not all gloom. Mazda, which doesn’t manufacture in the UK, reckons Brexit could create opportunities.

UK boss Jeremy Thomson says: “As a distributor we have always had to account for a tariff in our business model so if one is imposed on UK car imports it would level the playing field.”

Whatever happens, moving car plants takes a lot of planning, so we won’t be seeing empty factories any time soon.

If you sell a huge numbers of cars in a country, it makes sense to build them there.

And British car workers are highly skilled and often the jewel in global companies’ manufacturing.

So if I get a warm feeling of pride when I see a British cars being driven abroad, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to see one and know you helped build it.

Read More

Top news stories from Mirror Online

  • BBC star Dianne Oxberry dies at 51
  • Missing girl, 13, found alive
  • Snow to hit UK as 17 die in Europe
  • Mum furious as niece given ‘tacky’ name

Source: Read Full Article