You can’t blame people who believe Britain needs a thriving motor industry for feeling a bit paranoid from time to time. Fifty years ago our car business was the world’s biggest outside America, but through complacency and incompetence we chucked it away.

The damage started in the ‘60s, accelerated through the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Ford capped things in 2000 by ceasing car manufacture here after 87 years. 

By then, luckily, a team of foreign-based companies had moved in. The Japanese embraced the UK as a volume manufacturing site, then BMW, Volkswagen and Tata acquired our leading prestige marques and made them work. Today our industry makes 1.2 million vehicles plus two million engines a year, exports three-quarters of them, employs 770,000 people and feeds £8.5 billion into the economy. So why the paranoia? Because pessimists remember the past and imagine it could happen again. The leaders of foreign conglomerates who built our modern car industry might decide to dismantle it, especially if the UK government, historically ham-fisted at encouraging industry, were to botch things all over again. Except that it’s not going to happen. Not if you believe the signs, speeches, smiles and smoke-signals produced earlier in the week in London when the car industry’s biggest men came to town for a meeting, the first British-based gathering of ACEA, the European car manufacturers’ talking shop.