The curse of the British tea break strikes again. Just as BMW announces record sales, its Mini factory in Oxford is threatened by a first strike since 1984 over alleged incursions into workers’ break times.
The renaissance of volume British car making is well known. Likewise that of America’s car giants Ford and General Motors. The reasons for the two countries’ re-emergence as global automobile powers are different but, one way or another, they have dealt with their common problems of structural decline in the face of fierce overseas competition.
BMW’s experience in the UK captures much of why we are once again a leading exporter of cars – and the risks of losing that status. First the UK has great car brands – Mini and Rolls-Royce owned by BMW, MG Rover by the Chinese SAIC, Jaguar Land Rover owned by Tata, Bentley is part of Volkswagen and the likes of Lotus owned by Malaysia’s Proton.
Marques such as these are meeting strong demand from Brazil, Russia, India and China to name four familiar export markets. We retain the skills, modern factories and flexible labour market to make the UK a competitive home for investors, as well as being well connected globally by sea and air. All these advantages apply and more to mass-market producers such as Nissan, General Motors, Honda and Toyota that also make large numbers of cars here.