The motor industry showed its mettle yesterday and with it gave the Government two good reasons why it deserves help to survive a crisis most definitely not of its own making.
Jaguar gave the world the first tantalising glimpse of its new flagship XJ saloon – a car that the company’s production director, Paul Cope, says will leave its rivals with the “appeal of yesterday’s cold potatoes”.
Once it goes into production alongside the hugely-successful XF and the equally well-received XK sports car at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich assembly plant, the company’s revival under its patient Indian owner, Tata Motors, should be all but complete. Also yesterday, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars delved deep into its rich heritage to revive one of its most redolent names, the Ghost, for its newest model.
The Ghost will bring the Rolls-Royce range of super-luxury cars to four – a testament to the investment pumped into the company by its German owner BMW.
For its part, the Government must show in tomorrow’s Budget that it has finally grasped the extent and the cause of the crisis that has engulfed the automotive industry, not just here but throughout the world.
The simple fact is that, as wealthy as they might appear, BMW and Tata are struggling to finance their day-to-day activities in the teeth of the continuing refusal on the part of the bailed-out banks to restore their normal credit flows.
As welcome as the European Investment Bank’s recent loan to underpin Jaguar Land Rover’s long-term R&D programmes was, it didn’t address the company’s need for fresh working capital.
The vanmaker LDV, another important element of the West Midlands’ manufacturing base, is still waiting to hear whether it has qualified for a similar EIB loan.
Meanwhile, both companies are increasingly at the mercy of their creditors.
Chancellor Alistair Darling must show tomorrow that the Government is finally prepared to come up with the aid these manufacturers deserve.