So it looks like two decade rise and rise of the UK’s Japanese ‘transplant’ car factories are finally over.

For the first time since 1986, when the Nissan factory at Sunderland opened, Toyota, Honda and Nissan are on the back foot.

Today’s news that Nissan Sunderland is to shed 1200 workers – a quarter of the workforce – seems barely credible.

Only six months ago, Nissan was about to start 24-hour shifts and was hiring 800 new workers because of booming demand for the Qashqai. Yet the factory was idled over December and now the workforce is being slashed.

Last month Toyota put an £88m investment at its Deeside engine factory on hold and suspended the nightshift at the Burnaston assembly plant.

Honda will close its Swindon factory for all of February and March and sales have slumped so badly, that Honda has leased part of RAF Wroughton to store unsold cars and reportedly wants another 20 acres at space at Southampton dock.

Can job losses now be ruled out at Honda and Toyota? It seems unlikely.

When Mrs Thatcher encouraged the three Japanese carmakers to set-up the UK, it was seen as fresh start for an industry that had suffered decades of unrest.

But when one of most productive factories in the Europe, if not the world, cuts 25 per cent of its workforce the depth of the crisis in the automotive industry becomes ever clearer.