The development costs of many major league engineering projects have long been beyond the capabilities of single companies. Aeroplanes are a good example.

Today, Airbus products are a co-operative venture involving France, Spain, Germany and the UK. The last all-British military aeroplane was probably the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, which took to the skies in 1974.

Subsequent military aircraft – such as the 1970s SEPECAT Jaguar and Panavia Tornado – were designed and built by a consortium of nations. Even the mighty US economy is sagging at the bill for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which could come in at a staggering £263bn over the whole life of the programme.

The auto industry isn’t quite at the point of needing such massive transnational co-operation or mega-orders from government, but it is also reaching a critical point in terms of development costs as global governments demand the ‘greening’ of the car industry.