Andrew Frankel: “These aren’t bad headlines about Aston and McLaren, they’re human disasters”

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There are, it would seem, very few reasons to be cheerful about Britain’s indigenous motor industry right now. In May, McLaren announced 1200 job losses, the vast majority coming from its road car business. In June, it was 500 from Aston Martin, followed swiftly by 1000 at Bentley. That’s just at the time of writing. Jaguar Land Rover has yet to announce any, but even that has to be seen in the context of the 4500 jobs it shed last year. This year’s sales are projected to be down by as much as 20 per cent.

For those companies, this is not good reading. For those thousands who have lost their jobs, and the thousands more in the supply chain we read about far more rarely, these aren’t bad headlines, these are very personal, human disasters. But at the same time, we must look to the future and plot a route out of the mess. The starting point must be that almost all premium British car manufacturers comprise desirable brands.

When I think of the stuff Aston Martin, Land Rover, Bentley, Jaguar and Rolls-Royce were peddling when I started in the business in the late 1980s compared to their products today, well there is no comparison. Lotus too appears to be at the dawn of a new era. When I think of the rubbish that wobbled out of British Leyland in the 1970s, I realise just how far we have come. I dare say the short-term future of most if not all of the above will be hideously hard at times, and the medium term may not look quite as imagined a few months ago, but that there is a future for them in the long term is not something I doubted before COVID-19, and I don’t doubt it now.