Being part of the media doesn’t protect you from being shocked at times about the things other media publish.
I’m talking specifically about some of the adverse comment that has been swirling around over whether Jaguar Land Rover 'deserves' what some hacks insist on calling 'a bailout' from the government, once its Indian-based owner, Tata Motors, has contributed as much as it can from its own coffers.
The arguments from the “undeserving” side seem to be that JLR is no more significant in the country than Woolworths of MFI. Neither sold what the customer wanted; neither is to be rescued. What is more, JLR makes so-called gas-guzzlers that society has decided, more or less overnight, that it no longer needs, so who cares if it hits the wall?
There was even the risible suggestion from one Sunday newspaper columnist — a leftie lady who (I’ve often noted) seems to enjoy formulating strident comments without the benefit of the facts — that instead of ‘propping up’ the manufacture of Jaguars and Land Rovers, any available government money could be spent teaching Midlands car workers how to make green cars.
This breathtaking drivel shows such a complete lack of understanding of the industrial process — any industrial process — that the page it was printed on deserves promptly to be torn up, screwed up, stamped on, burned, buried or all of these
The point about car-building is that it has a long cycle. Until six months ago, Land Rover was remarkably successful in most of its 160 export markets. It was making products the marked desired, which is what makes successful companies. Its profits were being employed rapidly to bring forward the smaller, more economical, lower-CO2 vehicles the management knew well that it needed — it needed no coaching from glib Sunday newspaper columnists.
With the help of the new, highly desirable and relatively green XF, Jaguar was doing better than it had the year before. The companies were on an upward trend, both in profitability and in their progress towards making more efficient vehicles.
Now, because of the sudden withdrawal of credit and subsequently demand, the system is in recession. Cars are not selling — but some of that is because customers can’t find the funds (from banks) to finance purchases they want to make. Companies find it hard to pay employees and suppliers.
Why save JLR? Because it employs 15,000 people and supports the jobs of 50,000 more. Half the expenditure on automotive R&D — much of which trickles into other industries — is contributed by JLR, and nearly all of that is spent in Britain. On a wider stage, JLR is the seventh biggest R&D spender in all industries. Its contribution to the country’s industrial health is enormous.
Meanwhile, the company is already several years into making the new-wave cars much of the market now realises it requires. But as we wait for these crash programmes to come to fruition, it behoves all critics to understand that if 'green' cars are to become an affordable reality, we have no alternative to keeping the UK motor industry — and especially JLR — functioning efficiently.
Sacking the talented people who will shape the future company you have in mind is absolutely not the way. All logic says that if you support them now, the rewards will come.