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From the chair: August 2016
publication date: Aug 1, 2016
author/source: Robin Roberts
When you are staring at a computer screen with an approaching looming deadline and an interview still to be done or written up, it’s easy to forget what a pleasure it is to be a muttering rotter.
We all moan and complain, some more than others, but the fact is we have a privileged life and career. It’s a nightmare sometimes; other times it’s a dream job.
Two recent conversations reminded me how fortunate we are to be doing what we do and getting paid for it, well sometimes, and other times not so well. The questioners were casual acquaintances attracted by a particularly desirable car on test.
Their surprise gave way to disbelief and then the inevitable questions about the car, how do you get such a job and could they be photographed with the car?
After that I was on my way and some deserted roads over mountains just had to be driven and views taken in, images recorded and impressions jotted in a notebook. It was mid-week and I was working in an area many scores of people will rush to for a few hours at a weekend when they are not working.
I had all day, at least until that deadline time when everything had to be tapped onto a keyboard, put into an email for remote storage, and then pasted on screen.
For a little time anyway the practicality of the job gave way to the pleasure but it is the pleasure which will remain far longer and which fuels the addiction for automotive journalism.
Hopefully, next month the motoring groups will once again meet industry representatives for an ad hoc discussion about matters of mutual concern.
I have not attended such a meeting for a few years but from what I understand the issues to be raised are very similar to those we discussed when I was last at a meeting of the Association of Motoring Writers Group.
Have times changed or not? Well, I have been told that over the years the attendance of the manufacturers has been diminishing and this is a sad state if it proves to be true at the next meeting.
So, does it mean that everything is ok, that the industry is doing everything right and the journalists are a happy bunch of bunnies or does it mean the industry is not listening to those outside the factory fences, that the “wrong” representatives are there from the car makers and journalism and they cannot make any differences, or the meeting has become an exercise in tokenism. We shall see.
I have a feeling the Brexit vote outcome is going to be an escape road for poor design, production, marketing and sales performance which lead to lower vehicle sales.
We had dire warnings about future investment and job losses if Britain voted to leave the European Union and there has been a watering down of these claims in the last month.
We have seen what one economist called “dodgy figures” used to support the Remain case but the fact is that Britain’s efficiency is among the best in the world when it comes to car making at about 10.5 vehicles per employee, the best in Europe.
Figures which are not dodgy are that imports from the EU which dominate the UK market, and 60% of the value of systems and components used to make British cars are mainly imported from the EU.
Ultimately, almost 40% of the UK market is in the hands of Germany.
More of UK exported automotive products are going out of the EU and what we do sell into Europe attracts a 3.8% parts tariff compared to 9.7% with cars and 22% with CVs. This further suggests that European vehicle makers are very well protected and their efficiency is not as good as it could be when you look at the support for the industry in Japan and the USA.
So where the motor industry and market is concerned, the EU would have most to loose by acting rashly and imposing high tariffs and any British based car maker who cut down on UK production will be reducing their own efficiency and ultimately profits.
On the contrary, it could argued, now is the time to invest in the UK when interest rates are lower and the value of sterling makes it a good time to export.
Brexit provides an opportunity not an excuse.