The sector is fighting on several fronts – financial, environmental and regulatory. But experts believe even tougher times may be lurking around the corner. Professor Karel Williams at Manchester University believes Britain could end up a net loser in this game-changing shift from fossil fuels to cleaner exhausts.
He also identified three potential big winners: “First are the platform guys, like Google and Uber [which are developing self-driving cars] who will reduce car manufacturers to the status of white-goods producers,” he said. “Second, and the most likely winner, is China. Soon, the electric car, like your mobile phone, will come from China.
“Third are the existing big guns of the industry – the likes of Volkswagen, Nissan and Toyota – because they have the production capability and financial clout to pull through.
“The worrying thing for Britain is that we have no real strong connection to any of those in pole position for this future inheritance. Nissan in Sunderland is the exception, because all the rest [of the UK-based car manufacturers] are piddling in volume terms. We are basically a market.”
Williams believes this dire prognosis for Britain’s car industry means there are sure to be further job cuts: “The industry is set up to adjust to cyclical downturns – they all have substantial amounts of agency workers.”