Stumbled across a round of the French Rally Championship at the weekend, in the northern seaside town of Le Touquet, and was struck both by the size of the field – it was at least 150-strong – and the fact that the vast majority of the cars were French made.
Everything flying past on the tarmac seemed to be a Peugeot, a Renault or a Citroen – they’re still amazingly nationalistic, the French, when it comes to choosing cars. All of which had me reflecting, a little ruefully, that we don’t have an indigenous, mainstream industry of our own any more – not one that makes competitors to Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens, at least.
Given that much of Britain’s industry sank down the plughole after British Leyland expanded 40 years ago before shrinking to extinction with MG Rover in 2005, many of you may think that it's no great loss. Nevertheless it does amaze me, sometimes, that what was one of the world’s leading car producers is now unable to muster even a common-or-garden hatchback that it can call its own.
I’m no nationalist, but I’m wondering whether that bothers anyone, even if we have one of the finest ranges of blue-blood Astons, Bentleys, Land-Rovers and Rolls-Royces ever, and can at least half-claim Mini?