Your weekly guide to all that’s rotten in the auto industry, plus a few good bits
Another car giant complains Brexit will break it. BMW says it will be forced to close its production sites in the UK, putting 8,000 jobs at risk, if components for Mini and Rolls-Royce cars are caught up in customs delays and tariffs after the UK parliament throws away its French berry, Spanish sombrero, and Greek pom-pom shoes.
In its starkest warning so far Stephan Freismuth the customs manager of the German carmaker’s UK operations said its manufacturing base will not cope with obstructions to its supply chain. For ‘not be able to cope’ read, any impediment to production and profitability goals is over our dead body. This is fair enough. BMW are not a charity.
“We always said we can do our best and prepare everything, but if the supply chain will have a stop at the border, then we cannot produce our products in the UK.”
BMW employs over 8,000 people in the UK (as opposed to hamsters or chimps) including 4,500 at its flagship plant in Cowley, Oxford, where it produces the big as an SUV Mini. In a normal BMW saloon there are around 30,000 components from engine to nut and bolt. Around 2,000 components are made in the UK – a critical service industry to the UK’s economy. The rest are shipped in. To be frank, BMW will find it a lot simpler and convenient to move assembly to France than have disruption to 28,000 components per car. The company is powerful enough to make that decision if they have to keep an impediment-free movement of parts.
Whenever I hear of a company threatening to leave the UK, or actually packing its computers and iced water urn, I wonder how Scotland could have prospered from a short-distance transfer here had we won the first vote.
BMW’s anxieties are echoed by Michael Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). “There’s no Brexit dividend for our industry,”
Hawes wants May’s cabinet to get the finger out and stop playing silly buggers. (My extrapolation of his speech.) The car industry always expects special treatment. Hawes went on to state car firms including over and above BMW such as Honda, Volvo, Ford and Nissan would have to move production elsewhere if the uncertainty around Brexit continued for much longer.
We’ve heard this all before but the clamour for certainty is getting ever-louder. As Ruthie Tank Commander would say, “We said No and we mean it”.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Women, know thy place!
Women are legally allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia for the first time. It’s an important symbolic milestone despite some women who fought for the right are still in jail. The move to end the age-old female driving ban was announced last year and is widely attributed to the influence of Mohamed bin Salman, the street wise young crown prince, known as MBS. Salman has positioned himself as a moderniser and a champion of economic and social reform. To his instruction, cinemas have opened, the state has organised live music concerts, and women have been allowed into a secluded family section in a sports stadium. But before the British press scoff at how ‘backward’ is Saudi Arabia folk in comparison to Whitey in Blighty they should count how many male drivers pass them each day, wife, girlfriend or mistress in the passenger seat. A man’s gotta be master of his own domain.
Another Bond Aston Martin
“A legendary Aston Martin driven by James Bond in Goldfinger could have been found more than twenty years after it was stolen from a Florida airport”, so goes mainstream headlines, ever-ready to publish another James Bond story. (I tip Tom Hardy to take over from Daniel Craig, somebody else next week.) However, the announcement is as close to fake news as you can get, more ‘truthiness’ than accurate. The Aston Martin stolen was a promotional vehicle touring the world, decked up the same as the one in the film. And it’s location is not in the least certain but rather stored “somewhere in the Middle East”, which as alert reader will know is a damnably vast area. Snoresville.
Away with keys
Smartphones are cued to unlock and start cars, after a consortium of car makers and tech companies agreed a new set of standards for smartphone car keys. The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) – which counts Volkswagen, BMW, Hyundai, Apple, LG and Samsung among its members – has announced ‘Digital Key Release 1.0’ specification, which sets out how “a robust ecosystem” will allow drivers to lock, unlock and start their cars from compatible smart devices. (Tesla owners can already use a dedicated app instead of a key.) Instead of dropping your keys down a street drain as you leave the car, you can drop your iPhone down the drain. Thieves will learn how to dial in your car’s code from their deckchair on the Marbella coast in double quick time, and if a drive itself car, steer it to their factory hideout before shipping it to Eastern Europe without risking a hopped up car thief aboard.