03 June 2022
From an article in 1913 Copy of Automobile Topics magazine: ‘It’s hard to believe automobiles will get any more advanced than this.’
How wrong were they?
It was Henry Ford who kick-started large-scale production in the UK. He set up Ford’s first production plant in Manchester in 1913 and became the UK vehicle industry’s leading producer, followed by Wolsey, Humber, Rover and Sunbeam. These British companies had all been manufacturing cars since the turn of the century.
The great Wall Street crash seriously impacted the world economy, and the number of motor vehicle companies in the UK (previously around 200) fell back to around 50.
Once the post-war situation had settled, the American owned companies in the UK (Ford and Vauxhall) held nearly 30% of the British market, more than either of the UK’s top two British-owned companies. Driving the creation of the British Motor Corporation (BMC), whose aim was to dominate the British market.
By the mid-fifties, only five companies accounted for 90% of motor vehicle production,
Another factor adding to the difficulties of the British motor trade industry in the 70s was the oil embargo. After the six-day war involving Israel and Arab states, Middle Eastern producers used an oil supply embargo to pressure Western countries, leading to petrol-rationing, serious transport difficulties and ultimately, a three-day week in the UK.
Experts in the motor industry predict that by the end of the 1980s, only six-volume car manufacturers would exist in the world.
Then manna from heaven; in 2014, an announcement from Volkswagen outlining its plans to invest US$7bn in the North American car industry over the next five years epitomises the strength of the global automotive market. Despite economic uncertainty during the last few years, the industry has continued to expand.
With many car manufacturers reporting record sales, the automotive industry is among the best performing sectors worldwide. Further investment can play an integral part in bringing growth back to the world’s economy.
Along came an unpredicted Pandemic, causing industry mayhem.
And then the good news, National accountancy group UHY Hacker Young said a boost in demand following the pandemic led to the massive 628 per cent increase.
Hacker Young said dealerships benefited from the upswing in used car prices caused by a drop in car production due to shortages in raw materials and supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus.
It added that in 2021 some dealerships voluntarily stored some of their used stock so they could benefit from rising used car prices – something that hadn’t previously occurred in an industry that is usually keen to turn stock around quickly.
The UK motor trade industry finds itself navigating turbulent seas today.
It’s called the future.
Most industry players and experts agree that four trends will reinforce and accelerate one another and that the automotive industry is ripe for disruption.
These forces are giving rise to four disruptive technology-driven trends in the automotive sector: diverse mobility, autonomous driving, electrification, and connectivity, whatever that means.
Predictions for the motor trade are probably no more reliable than the announcement in 1913.