It has been a pretty sobering week for the car industry as the country takes back control as we approach Brexit. Honda’s decision to close its Swindon plant after 30 years came as something of a shock. And Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, said that the effect of this would be nothing compared to the effects of a no-deal Brexit. Following up on that story, if you read the Wall Street Journal you will see that Honda has announced that some of that production will travel across the pond. No doubt in order to beat Pres Trump’s tariffs for foreign produced vehicles into the US.
Just when we thought there was so much news around about Brexit that nothing else could get through, there was an another announcement in the States yesterday that Ford is under investigation for problems with emissions. The same Wall Street Journal, amongst others, carried the story yesterday, apparently the result of whistle blowers within the organisation questioning the manufacturers analysis of test results to arrive at their emissions figures. Thank goodness we will all be turning electric, we won’t have to worry about emissions at all then.
The issue for the UK post Brexit is fairly clear. We are highly unlikely to be seen as the landing point for car production because the country does not give access to Europe and all other markets are simply too far away. The world is becoming much more protectionist, and in those circumstances everyone will put up blocks. Which does not necessarily leave us in an encouraging place.
But interestingly, speaking to senior executives, the first quarter of this year has so far proved pretty encouraging. Not least because sales teams love a narrative, and customers generally love an excuse to leap into action. What better excuse than “If you want a new car make sure you buy it before the end of March in case the price goes through the roof”. We went through this two years ago, however, and it would be good to remember just how disappointing April was after a fine start to the year. At that time it was because of the change in vehicle excise duty.
Anyway have a good weekend, there’s plenty of rugby on, take back control (of the remote perhaps).
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