A weekly look at all that sucks in the auto world, and some good bits
“The German car industry relies on the UK for sales.” Ergo, EU officials will relax their resistance to renegotiating terms for leaving the EU, and offer Britain a deal on the Single Market rather than lose imports and sales. “They won’t cut their own throats with tariffs” goes the Great Myth, repeated by arch Brexiteer Sir James Dyson.
I’ve heard arrogant Tory and Labour politicians say this so often, read third-rate press pundits reiterate it over and over again. It’s nonsense, was always nonsense and remains nonsense. They’re still doing it, lying through their £1,000 a tooth orthodontic implants.
The German car industry has millions of Euros invested in a BMW Mini plant in England, and a Rolls-Royce plant. The rest are BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen dealerships. If it transpires imports of German cars will have tariffs imposed on them then that’s how they will be sold in the UK. We will be back to the bad old days when a UK car cost significantly more than a European equivalent because ‘it had to be right-hand drive’.
The reality is the reverse of what British ministers keep telling us. We export a fifth of what we build. Brexit will close that down. The car companies will take stock and build elsewhere in Europe. They have the factories functioning now to do it. Even Jaguar-Land Rover has moved some production to Europe.
BMW, one of the most powerful and cash rich in the world, is a worldwide operation. The same for VW and Mercedes. They don’t rely on UK sales propping up their bottom line. They have not done so for generations.
Their energies are thrown into sales in Europe, North America and China. Their UK plants get 75% of the parts delivered from Europe. If sales in the UK are impeded by the result of a No Deal Brexit, or parts from Europe blocked, sufficiently to imperil their UK manufacturing business they will shut down the plants.
Now Germans are showing their hand. The boss of BMW chief executive Harald Krüger urges Back Door Boris to respond to calls from business to find a compromise on Brexit. Probably without knowing Boris speaks like a colonial who thinks Germans are Krauts. Krüger has offered to travel to the UK to deliver the message to the clown of prime ministers in person. He’s brave.
Speaking as the German car maker has ploughed a lot of its profits into electric vehicles, Krüger said it would be a “lose-lose” scenario if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. BMW has warned before of the disaster that a no-deal scenario might force it to stop making the Mini at its Cowley plant near Oxford, putting more than 4,500 jobs and more than 100 years of car making there at risk.
Asked if he had a personal message for Back Door Boris, England’s clown prime minister heavily criticised for saying “fuck business”, Krüger urged Boris to find a compromise to avoid a hard Brexit. “Listen to the economy and listen to the people. You need to have a dialogue with business.”
BMW’s intervention in the Brexit debate makes the German powerhouse the latest in a long line of car makers to issue warnings about the impact of Brexit on the UK automotive industry. It employs around 850,000 people in total.
Krüger’s comments are cast-iron evidence that the German car industry is not quaking in its boots at losing UK production or sales. They undermine Boris’ claims that German car makers will pressure the EU to give ground to prevent a no-deal situation in which tariffs are applied to exports.
Moreover, Germans were quick to notice how the British government handed £500 million to a company traditionally seen as quintessentially British – Jaguar, to produce electric cars, but not to an EU company. This is symptomatic of the colonial disasters of the British Empire and the chaos they left behind.
If German car makers decide to stay in Britain they will demand the same subsidies given to Jaguar to survive, and indeed to farmers, to offset tariffs. If Boris’ crew decide to take that path they will raise taxes to pay the already wealthy to protect their profit margin – a classic hallmark of a far-right neo-liberal administration.
An England isolated, with few if any trade deals, thinks itself able to sway German industry to do as it’s told. This is English exceptionalism taken to grandiose heights.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
No bile mobile
A while back a police officer wagged his finger at me as I switched off my mobile phone. I showed him I hadn’t used it, the dash had Bluetooth reception. I was reminded of that incident reading of legal loophole where a non-interactive phone call is performed. It comes after Ramsey Barreto, a 51-year-old builder, was stopped by police in August 2017 when he was spotted using his mobile phone to film the scene of a traffic accident he was driving past in Ruislip, West London. Barreto was charged with offences relating to the use of handheld mobile phone behind the wheel and was convicted at Magistrates Court in July 2018. In October that year his conviction was overturned where a judge said the law did not prohibit the use of a mobile phone to shoot video footage while driving. Nice.
Reading about the innovative Tesla electric cars – though still disliking that clumsy top dead centre computer screen that takes your eye off the road – I learn Tesla send you apps every so often to upgrade your car. Not got heated seats for a cold winter’s day in Scotland? An app arrives out of the blue, you pay and upload, and hey presto – toasted bum. Marvellous. That signifies Tesla build those parts into the car before it leaves the factory in anticipation of an app created later. Remember, those same apps download your bank account, but what a wonderful invention, upgrades at the touch of a button.
Thank the driver
I miss bus conductors. Some were terrific characters. On bleak mornings they could keep you smiling. If you fell asleep embalmed by the sun’s rays on your window they would wake you in time for your stop. Some chivied women and helped them up onto the open platform, then situated at the rear of a bus. Some sang for applause and made jokes. Today, it’s all up to the driver, fixed in his seat, surrounded by security alarms and a cage in case yobbos or a drunk get shirty. Where are the singing drivers? But as I stepped off my bus top of the Mound in Edinburgh, I heard myself say ‘Thanks very much’. I thanked him because he had manoeuvred the bus to sit over the kerb so I alighted not in a gutter of rushing rain water but on the pavement. Lots of us thank the driver … just for driving.