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How Did The Auto Industry Save The UK Economy?

By raccars Published

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Those who remember the bad old days of British Leyland will, no doubt, be astonished to realise that it is the auto industry which has in large part driven economic recovery in the UK. UK car manufacturing has set a target of two million units per annum by 2017, and nearly two and a half million new cars were sold here last year. Britain is enjoying the most successful car market in Europe, with yet further investment planned by brands including Nissan, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Chinese firm, Chery.

Auto manufacturing success is nothing new to British industry, it's just been a while since it was last experienced. Britain was the world's biggest vehicle exporter back in the Fifties, but by the Seventies and Eighties, it had all fallen apart thanks to a combination of inefficient management and a strike-crazy workforce. British Leyland epitomised the scale of the problem.

Created out of the British Motor Corporation and the Leyland Motor Corporation, it grouped a number of major automotive names into what should have been a global motoring powerhouse - MG, Morris, Austin, Wolseley, Jaguar, Rover, Triumph and a number of commercial names, such as Scammell. The reality was a corporate disaster and, in 1986, the sun had set not only on British Leyland's dream but on the ambitions of the UK's entire motoring industry. Auto manufacturing sank to record lows in 1982, with only 900,000 cars made and 120,000 of them in kit form, to be sold to Iran.

Ultimately, the UK has Nissan to thank for the revival of its auto industry, with the Japanese firm starting up a new Sunderland factory in the mid-Eighties. In the following years, Honda and Toyota followed suit and production began to grow. The demise of MG Rover in 2006 was a disappointment but recovery continued regardless.

Now you can find 30 brands building cars in UK factories, assisted by 2,350 parts suppliers, with more than 800,000 staff, plus eight Formula One race teams and a turnover passing £64 billion. It is the biggest export industry in the country, generating revenue of £27 billion.

While the indomitable British bulldog spirit has, no doubt, played its part, it's mostly foreign firms which have built the UK into a great car making power, and the investors brave enough to still believe in some iconic but fading auto brand names. However, the dedication and intelligence of the British workforce proved their confidence was well founded and, once again, Britain is leading the world in automotive design, technology and manufacturing.

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