Who Killed the British Car Industry?

Clarkson looks at the factors that may have accounted for the «killing» of the British car industry in the 1990s, with left virtually of the car industry defunct or foreign owned by 1994. He recalls the fact that there were dozens of British-owned carmakers in Britain in 1950, and that The London Taxi Company (producer of the black taxi) was the largest British owned carmaker less than fifty years later.

He begins with a review of the Triumph Stag, a four-seater open top sports car launched in 1970, which won praise for its style and performance, but was condemned for its terrible engine, a 3.0 eight cylinder unit which was created from two Dolomite 1500 engines welded together, despite British Leyland having access to the reliable and powerful Rover 3.5 V8 at the time. Over its seven-year production run, the Stag was blighted by reliability problems.

He goes on to berate British Leyland for producing several cars to compete in the same market sectors during the 1970s. The Austin Allegro and Morris Marina come in for the heaviest criticism from Clarkson, who also slams the 1980 facelift of the Morris Marina, when it was renamed the Ital in honour of Giugiaro’s highly regarded ItalDesign studio, as another missed opportunity.

Clarkson praises the success of the original Mini, but was keen to point out that even this was a liability for BMC/BL, as its production cost was so high that it was sold at a loss, and that it was in production for forty one years after its launch in 1959, although production was cut back after the launch of the Metro (a more modern and practical small car) in 1980.

He criticises Rover’s most recent all-new car launch (the 1999 Rover 75) for its retro styling. He finished by berating the likes of Tony BennLeonard Lord and the once powerful trade unions for the decline of the British car industry.


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