With the world deep in the middle of the longest recession in living memory, January didn’t prove to be the fresh and optimistic start to 2009 that we’d all hoped for. Job cuts, factory shutdowns and axed models – the month had them all.
On the back of eight consecutive months of declining new car sales, firms with UK plants – including Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Mini – were forced to cut jobs, reduce working hours and extend Christmas breaks. It wasn’t just UK workers who were affected, either; Toyota announced plans to close all 12 of its Japanese plants for 11 days in February and March.
Another shadow lying over the UK car industry’s new year was the future of its motor show. The organisers admitted the format needed a rethink after the lack of big-name manufacturers in 2006 and 2008, but their efforts proved fruitless.
The recession wasn’t just affecting jobs, factories and motor shows. Honda announced that all of its future rear-drive models would, like the NSX replacement, be cancelled. It had planned to launch BMW 3-series, 5-series and 7-series rivals in Europe under its Acura brand, but these were seen as the wrong cars at the wrong time. Instead, it committed to developing more hybrid models.