Made better in Britain
Why our campaign launched on St George's Day to boost sales of British-built cars is more relevant than everLike its counterparts across the globe, Britain’s car industry faces challenges. When we launched our Made Better in Britain campaign last St George’s Day, our car factories had never been busier.
But with Honda’s Swindon plant closed until June, and Toyota’s and Mini’s factories operating on reduced shifts, the picture for 2009 is very different. And that means our campaign to get you all buying British-made could not be more relevant.
First, there are still cars from traditional British makes – Mini, Land Rover and Jaguar – being produced in tens of thousands. Mini has just introduced a second-generation version of its Convertible, a car set to regain its place as the UK’s top-selling soft-top.
How hard is it to buy a British car today? Pretty easy, actually. There’s a broad choice, from £7000 superminis to £40,000 luxury saloons. And that’s without the niche makers, such as Lotus, Morgan and Noble. In all, 1.4 million cars emerge from UK factories for sale locally and for export, over half of them wearing Honda, Nissan or Toyota badges.
But once you start checking what’s built where, you’ll hit surprises. Ford, despite its US owners, has long been regarded as British as Branston pickle or tweed caps. But, currently no Ford you can buy is assembled in Britain. They’re put together in Belgium, Germany, or Spain. Even so, Ford has four UK factories building engines and gearboxes for many European Fords, plus Land Rovers and Jaguars. Petrol and diesel motors go from Bridgend, Dagenham, Southampton and Halewood to all over Europe. Ford also builds Transit vans here.
Vauxhall has settled the future of its Ellesmere Port plant with the announcement that the next-generation Astra will be built there from 2010. At the make’s Luton base, it makes Vivaro vans, the Nissan Primastar and the Renault Trafic. Other Vauxhalls are built elsewhere across Europe: the make’s newest family car, the Insignia, rolls off assembly lines in Belgium.
Mini currently builds the One and Cooper hatchbacks, convertibles and Clubman estate models at its Oxford plant. However, the Crossmax, an off-road capable Mini which is to become the fourth member of the family will be put together in Graz, Austria, by Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik. This company also builds the X3 off-roader for Mini’s parent company, BMW.
Back in Britain, the Hams Hall factory in the West Midlands builds engines for the Mini and also the BMW 1-series.
Honda turns out thousands of Civics and CR-V off-roaders from its Swindon factory, even exporting the Civic Type-R performance hatchback to Japan. Currently, the only Civic sold in Britain but not made here is the Hybrid petrol/electric saloon. Look back a decade and you’ll find that Honda even made some Rovers – during the 1990s, the 400 and 600 models shared bodies and oily bits with Concertos, Civics and Accords.
As has long been the case, Japanese companies now build the most cars in Britain. Nissan makes Micra hatchbacks and Micra coupe-cabriolets in Sunderland, along with the Qashqai and the Note. Don’t assume that every other Nissan makes the long sea journey here from Japan, though, because the Pathfinder off-roader is readied in Barcelona.
Toyota began building cars at Burnaston back in 1992 – the first car to emerge from the factory was a Carina E – and now assembles the Auris five-door hatchback and Avensis line-up for the UK and for export.
The just-announced cash-for-scrap scheme will give the industry a much-needed boost, although it applies equally to all cars, regardless whether they are built locally or on the far side of the globe.
What’s made where:
Nissan Micra - Sunderland
Honda Civic - Swindon
Lotus Elise - Hethel, Norfolk
Bentley Arnage – Crewe
Toyota Avensis - Burnaston
Jaguar XF - Castle Bromwich
Land Rover Freelander - Solihull
Mini Cooper - Oxford
Morgan – Malvern Link, Worcestershire
Aston Martin DB9 - Gaydon, Warwick