How come British don't make cars any more?

How come British don’t make any cars like France, Italy or Germany does?(actually there are some car plants but all are Japanese,American or Germans bought and modernized whole plant-example-hit car mini)
In UK long time ago there were preety good British owned car plants and Britain has long history of manufacturing all kinds of machinery.But lately from what I see there is nothing interesting or innovating comming from UK.
On the mainland Europe side of channel France, Dutch not to mention Germans for example are making excellent small cars, great trains and their highway systems are superb.And all kinds of industries in mainland Europe are much ahead of British.What happened?

Everybody finally realized that British cars were crap. They’ve never managed to master electricity and it shows. I’ve never known anybody who owned a British car who didn’t have major problems with it, especially the electronics.

There’s an interesting report from the BBC on this topic.

And then the Japs came along and out-priced the lot of them. People realised that they could get better cars for less.

Though from a little searching it seems that government policies and their relationship with the trade unions may have stifled growth of the industry.

There are lots of reasons, but poor management, which was too short termist and unable to properly manage a militant workforce are the chief reasons.

It isn’t actually true to say that the British car industry has dissapeared, companies have become multinational so that parts are manufactired in one nation, sub assembled somewhere else, and completed in another, and this is partly depedant upon regional grants, tax regimes subsidies etc.

The UK still builds nearly as many cars as it ever did, its just that a lot of it is part or sub assembly.

Political interferance in major markets, along with manufacturing cars just to hit a particular tax system and UK car overpricing have not helped, UK manufacturers in general have been more interested in increasing profit margins rather than either maintaining market share, or running at much lower profits by investing in new models and manufacturing techniques.

The UK car industry saw what happened to the motorcycle industry, and still did not learn the lessons of those mistakes.

We had high inflation during the late '60’s and throughout the '70’s, we had high interest rates, and these made investment less attractive, but through it all, abysmal management still must shoulder most of the blame.

There is so much material and so many reasons that this thread could easily be rehomed in GD.

I thought it was because they were embarassed by the DeLorean.


Just kidding. I always thought the DeLorean was cool.

DeLorean was Irish.

As already noted, it’s not so much that the British don’t make cars, as that they don’t make them for British-owned companies, and most of the pretigous old British marques are now subsidiaries of American and German companies. It is noteworthy that the surviving marques which trade on their British cache seem to be specialty market and upscale automobiles - as indicated, they simply didn’t keep up with the industry on high production “everyday” cars. Consequently, they had to eventually endure things like Bentley, which sold a few high-end cars a year, being owned by Volkswagen.

I did a quick search, and found that Lotus is still a British corporation, if mostly Malaysian owned. Interestingly, Henly is the only other one I found. Who is Henly, you ask? Well, they manufacture buses, including a large chunk of the North American market - Blue Bird is a subsidiary of theirs, so most North American school buses are made by a British-owned company.

in the early post-war years Britsh car makers could sell anything with a wheel at each corner, such was the pent-up demand for new cars. War-ravaged French, German and Italian factories meant they had it all their own way for a few years. But they recognised that this would be a temporary situation and made little effort to woo the export markets. They only exported in the first place because the government bullied them into it with quotas of cars that had to go for export and very high sales tax (66% at one point) on domestic sales. Left to themselves they would have been quite happy to stick to servicing the undemanding British consumer, who is taught from his earliest years to take what he’s given and not make a fuss. Eighteen month old cars were actually worth more than new ones, because they could be bought at once, instead of going on the waiting list for a new one.
The decline of the British motor industry can be ascribed to:- short-sighted management without vision, who bought industrial relations peace without regard to long-term profitability; bloody-minded unions who seized as much advantage as they could from this situation and constantly squabbled among themselves as to whose members should doing what job; government interference with the operation of the market.

There are other causes for the decline of the British auto industry; to my mind, they were:
-excessive unionization at the assembly plants…the last British car conglomorate (British Leyland) once had to deal with 23 different unions. If one went on strike, the rest downed tool and had a tea break.
-reluctance to modernize. The British never upgraded their designs, most typically in engines and electrical systems. That is why they were using 1920’s-style Bendix-drive starters until well into the 1970’s!
-poor productivity. Due to labor problems, British mfgs. weremarginally profitable from the 60’s on…this meant obsolescent designs were kept in production.
The net effect of all of this was that by the 1970’s, most of GB’s car offerings were obsolete, of low quality, and non-competitive :frowning:

Well, they were made in Northern Ireland, which I think counts as “British.”

Hit submit too soon: :smack:

The DeLorean factory also received very large subsidies from the UK government.

There’s also Morgan - nice cars.

Firstly, there are loads of British car marques today - hundreds. It’s just that most of them are small-scale concerns turning out somewhere between a dozen and a couple of hundred cars each year. If you ignore volume and look at manufacturer numbers, Britain actually has more than almost every other country.

Secondly, contrary to the “they were crap so went bust” line of thought expressed above, British car companies have actually been a victim of their own success - getting bought out my foreign nationals. Sure, some 1970s British cars were awful but that’s hardly a reason for foreign car companies to dive in and buy up the goods - on the contrary, foreign car companies bought them as going concerns. Most recent example? British sportscar manufacturer TVR was bought last week by a Russian. The company has been phenomenally succssful of late. Does it matter? No, because in the week it was bought there were probably 3 new car manufacturers being established.


Ah yes - privately owned. I was scanning through a list of public companies large enough to make the yahoo car and truck manufacturers list.

as said before britain still makes lots of cars. With the possible exception of probably vauxhill and landrover (not suprisingly two of the least reliable makes), most are designed and part made overseas. But today who cares? How many american firms are not part owned by a foreign firm or share technology? (I don’t know, but suspect most). If I get a reliable good looking car, it can be made in greenland for all I care.

Ah. Yes. Technically correct. :smack:


Vauxhall == GM
Land Rover == Ford.

(and Mini == BMW)

Well, sort of. Depends if “British” means “from Great Britain” or “from the United Kingdom.”

Obligatory link to the relevant staff report.

You all know that I’m an MGB fan. One reason the British “stopped making cars” was because of stringent U.S. environmental laws. For example, the MGB five-bearing engine put out (IIRC) 98 hp. Not bad for a lightweight roadster. But by the end of the 18-year production run in 1980, anti-pollution devices had stangled the hp down to about 65. In addition, U.S. laws required that cars have similar bumper heights, and “safer bumpers”. Thus we got the rubber-bumper MGBs, which were raised a couple of inches. Raising the car had an adverse affect on handling. So the cars didn’t handle as well, and they weren’t as powerful.

Triumph had a winner in the TR-6, but it was beginning to show its age. Datsun came out with a car that was similar in concept (except that it was a hard top) in the 240Z. It had a straight-six engine like the TR-6 and the earlier “Big Healys”, but superior reliability.

And then there were the 1973 and 1979 gas crises. The earlier one got people used to Japanese cars, which got people thinking about Z-cars instead of American Muscle or British Class. By the late 1970s people were very concerned about mileage, and the British sports cars couldn’t compete well in that arena. (The original MGB got about 30 mpg in the book, but my '66 tended to score in the low-to-mid 20s.)

The TR-7 was “The Shape of Things to Come”. I read somewhere that someone said, “It’s styling will be outdated in six months.” The TR-7 didn’t look like a British sports car. Worse, it’s four-banger was rather anemic. The TR-8 solved the power problem; but it was too little, too late. The TR-7 is sometimes refered to as “The Car That Killed Triumph”.

Jaguar was suffering quality control problems in the late-1970s/early-1980s. From what I’ve heard, they were awful. That’s one reason why so many “classic” XJ-6s have a Chevy under the bonnet. What happened to make quality control so poor? I don’t know.

The '80s were a crummy time for cars. I find the cars of that era ugly and poorly made. (In the '80s I was driving my '66 and '77 MGBs and a '77½ Porsche 924.)

A funny thing happened though. About a decade after MGBs disappeared from the new car market, the Japanese found that people still liked sports cars. They brought us the Mazda Miata – “The MGB That Works”. (MGBs were not as bad as they – and other British cars – are made out to be. Yeah, I joke about them; but they were as good as any other car. Even the Lucas electricals didn’t really cause that many problems for me.) But the British couldn’t re-introduce a car that was first sold in 1962, if they wanted to compete with the Miata. The Miata is everything the MGB was, with newer systems, better reliability, and at an affordable price. (The MGB was affordable, but I doubt the price of a newly designed one would be competitive with the Mazda offering.)

MGs are still being made. The MG-TF is not available in the U.S., though.

Anyway, that’s my take on one segment of the British car industry. YMMV.

Just pointing out that Henlys Group Plc has its own problems. The company said June 10 its shares may be worthless because weak demand and higher losses prompted talks with banks about reorganizing the company, sending the stock down 95% in one day. The company in March cut its forecast for annual profit for the second time in five weeks and has delisted its shares from the London Stock Exchange. Shares of Mayflower Corp., Henlys’ partner in a joint venture called TransBus, were suspended March 30, the day after the company said it found accounting problems at TransBus, and Mayflower appointed administrators the next day.