Although in the states the recession may be biting deeper and car sales being hit even harder than here, what comparisons can we draw with our American cousins? Although we rely predominantly on imported cars for our industry there are still many cars built in UK based factories from many different car manufacturers which thousands of workers here rely on for continuing employment. Even though there have been many casualties most manufacturers are doing their best in conjunction with the unions to keep building viable cars for the UK and European markets. The long term future of car building in the UK looks to be strong, simply because plants are much more economic and workers appear to be a lot more realistic and hard working than their American counterparts. Let’s face it the unions in the home-grown car plants have contributed to their own demise by not modernising and by holding US car makers to ransom for decades, leading to the inevitable fallout currently being experienced.
The interesting parallels lie in the way many people in the states are holding off buying a new car by fixing old cars up and running them into the ground (recession means more car repairs, fewer new sales). Some are even attempting the maintenance themselves, for fear of getting into debt and not being able to make the payments. They would rather test how good these modern cars are by seeing how long they can keep them on the road rather than replacing, and it seems that the same might be happening over here.
The scrappage scheme has clearly had an effect in kick-starting new car sales but it will be interesting to see what type of customer has taken advantage of it. All the signs are that they are predominantly either people who would probably have the money in the bank but needed a good reason to change, or where a car has been passed around family members and someone has taken the decision to change for something newer, leaving the cars to change around the family in order of age and pecking order. Many dealers are reporting workshops have to work harder than ever to entice customers and the only winners seem to be the ‘Fred in the shed’ repairers who can keep a car road worthy for a fraction of the cost of a larger dealer with the far larger overheads. Like the United States though, there are many drivers who are choosing to do their own maintenance or at the very least shop around for their own parts before instructing a garage to carry out repairs to a car, at the very least then this should keep the recovery companies busy with rectifying all this amateur repair work!