Our auto industry must ditch nostalgia even as it revives DeLorean

LAST week we were bombarded with fond memories and childhood nostalgia when the famous car brand De-Lorean was relaunched. A new template, based on the most powerful marketing tools, will be released. Former Tesla executive Joost de Vries bought the rights to the famous name and set up the gullwing-door Alpha5 as a challenge to Porsche and Mercedes.

Obviously, we’re meant to be lyrical about the car’s cinematic success in Back to the Future and its two sequels, and remember less clearly the trial – and acquittal – of the car’s original founder. John DeLorean for drug trafficking and the ignominious collapse of his business. The new car, however, is an exercise in outsourcing: de Vries told reporters that the car was built in Italyand that De-Lorean has “a few partners” in the UK working on its powertrain.

So the new DeLorean will always have some claim to Britishness, even if it’s not, like its predecessors were, built just outside of Belfast. But it marks a turning point in the automobile industry in UK, who has been facing a settling of accounts for some time. Who could forget the fears firmly planted in us from the Remain camp that Brexit would spell the end of our four-wheeled success?

Build cars in the UK is a big deal. A turnover of £82billion, in fact, sees 1.5million passenger vehicles built, mostly by large multinational manufacturers Nissan, Toyota and Vauxhall. It is therefore a healthy industry, secured during Brexit by from Nissan undertake to maintain and develop their Sunderland factory, even if it draws elsewhere. At debit, Honda closed its factory in Swindon Last year.

The UK also supports a thriving low-volume, high-end sector, with sports brands like Caterham and Lotus alongside luxury brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin.

The latter belong to foreigners but are produced in the UK due to the country’s long automotive heritage and reputation for craftsmanship. But we are losing ground: both Rolls-Royce and Bentley, which used to depend on national coachbuilders, now import bodies already painted from Germany for mounting only in the UK.

As electric vehicles are now accepted as the transport of the future, Britain has another automotive asset: batteries. Nissan has invested more than £400m in a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant to power its range of electric vehicles. Meanwhile, further north still, Britishvolt has secured a bid for government support for a gigafactory in Blyth, producing batteries for 300,000 cars each year. And in the West Midlandsthe government authorized a giga-factory to Coventry Airport, although it has yet to gain the support of an automaker. The battery market is an obvious market to tap into. The many manufacturers based in the UK will need more and more batteries: the demand will rise inexorably instead of falling, thus saving the invention of a whole new technology. Chairman of Britishvolt, Peter Rolton, pointed out that “imports from China or other Asian countries will not be an option. There will be very, very large shortages of batteries”. He carefully defines the problem in a way that he can accurately answer.

The UK offers the automotive industry a ready and highly skilled workforce, expertise in everything from basic body assembly to research and development, and a new area of ​​excellence emerging in the form of battery production. Manufacturing, selling and driving cars supports around one million jobs in the UK. Although British brands are thin on the ground, we still produce a large number of classic brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Lagonda, Lotus and Caterham.

The decision, however strongly courted, by Nissan engage yourself to UK was extremely important in overcoming potential Brexit hurdles. However, we must not rest on our laurels; the auto industry is too valuable to decline again, and we need to promote and export UK engine technology with as much passion as we defend our other technological successes.

The auto industry always loves a bit of nostalgia, as the new DeLorean demonstrates. And the sector is rich in heritage in this country. But the past should only inspire us, not comfort us. If we want to stay in the auto business, we need to build more and better cars, engines and other parts. Seeing gigafactories take shape is as close to a modern restoration of our manufacturing base as one could get.

£ Eliot Wilson is co-founder of pivot point and columnist at CityAM

(c) 2022 City AM, source Newspaper

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