Tata’s takeover of Jaguar and Land Rover marks another twist in the roller-coaster fortunes of the British car industry.
The days when British firms made their own big-name cars are long gone.
Foreign companies bought the best-known brands, once emblematic of UK manufacturing, and commentators bemoaned a sector in decline.
BMW of Germany owns Mini and Rolls-Royce, while another German company, Volkswagen, is in charge of Bentley.
Over the past decade the UK has seen some marked shifts in the composition of vehicle production in the UK.
Whilst the Japanese manufacturers have seen major growth and the Mini brand has relaunched and forged ahead, Peugeot’s withdrawal from Ryton, MG Rover’s collapse at Longbridge and Jaguar’s closure of its historic Browns Lane plant in Coventry brought mass job losses over the past decade.
In January last year Peugeot moved production of its 206 model from Ryton in Coventry to Slovakia, with the loss of 2,300 jobs.
It brought to an end over 60 years of car production on the site.
And an inquiry into the collapse of MG Rover is still ongoing.
Sources claim a draft report is already with the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, with the full version about three months away.
The Longbridge plant closed with the loss of 6,000 jobs in 2005.
However, the British car industry survives under a different model, thanks largely to investment from overseas.
While its car makers were snapped up by the likes of Ford and BMW, the UK remained a place for foreign companies to build their vehicles.
In January, Japanese car giant Nissan announced the creation of 800 jobs at its UK factory in response to demand for its Qashqai model.
The firm has invested heavily in its Sunderland plant, which started building cars in 1986.
Other examples of investment have included Ford at its Southampton facility, Honda in Swindon, German-owned Bentley’s operation in Crewe, Japanese-owned Toyota at Burnaston in Derbyshire, and Oxford’s German-owned Mini factory.
Experts put the successes down in part to UK-based manufacturers adapting to an increasingly competitive global market.
Flexible working practices and re-education schemes have been introduced to improve productivity and quality of output.
In fact, record numbers of cars were built in the UK last year for export to other countries, figures showed earlier in the year.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said 1.5 million cars were produced in the UK in 2007, a 6.4 per cent increase on the previous year, of which 1.1 million were sold overseas, a rise of 7.2 per cent.
The UK is now making nearly twice as many cars as 25 years ago.
Land Rover and BMW’s Mini were seeing record production volumes and the Japanese brands of Honda, Toyota and Nissan in Swindon, Derby and Sunderland respectively were showing strong volumes on the back of new model introductions.
Then there is Russian-owned Birmingham-based van maker LDV, which is making progress.
The UK is also home to a number of low volume specialist sports cars.
Tata has already spoken of its commitment to the two marques and to UK motoring, and the new deal is expected to safeguard around 16,000 UK jobs.