We are all at a real crossroads, being buffeted by forces out of our control that will change the way our country operates and change many of our own ways of life beyond recognition. And looking at the news today, the town of Luton might just be the embodiment of the challenges we all face.
To begin with, Eric Morecambe will be turning in his grave. His beloved Luton Town FC have fallen out of the football league after nearly 100 years in the top flight. Perhaps it is coincidence, but it might not be the only shock that hits the town this spring after another 100-year success story.
Vauxhall arrived in Luton in 1905 and has been a huge influence on the town ever since. It is said to be one of the reasons that Luton avoided the worst of the recession in the 1930's. But how times change -with its parent GM's well published problems, Luton is nervously looking to the future. In the US the threat of bankruptcy for GM is very real; no one knows what the consequences would be for the UK if it really happened.
But I am not suggesting the industry look at Vauxhall and ask what might have gone wrong -the franchise is actually doing well in the UK and its problems are way beyond these shores -I think that Luton FC has far more lessons for us to learn from.
Because Luton have always been one of the most creative, imaginative and ground breaking clubs in football. They claim to be the first to pay professionals in the late 19th century. They laid their artificial grass pitch in the late 80s. They even banned away supporters. They have never been afraid to invest in their future.
No doubt under the guidance of visionary chairmen and a management planning for the long-term, they invested heavily. Investments that would surely have paid handsomely if they had not taken their eye off the ball and forgot about performing on the pitch. The 10-year horizon was important, but not as crucial as winning next Saturday.
Many dealers probably feel they are in a similar place today. In the face of the toughest economic storms for that same century, they are struggling to keep themselves in the game. And to do so they have to win the battle every day, every week, every month. But yet they are still being pressured to build the Stadium of the Future by manufacturers who appear to have no real interest in whether they survive or not.
And this has always been the dilemma for the automotive industry. Manufacturers have to concentrate on long-term goals, as product development demands long cycles. But they also have to interact with dealers who, like football clubs all over, are only as good as last month's results. And when your last month was March and 30% down, relegation can look a little closer.
But now the world is changing, because some car-makers are not looking into the far distance. Because, if you believe the financial pages, some of them may do well to get there. Their own energies are now also concentrated on a much shorter horizon, one that coincides with their dealers.
Let us hope for both sides that they do survive, so that the towns and cities that depend upon this industry can sleep soundly at night again. It would be good to hear the sound of contented snoring from Luton once more.