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Cars: The global business of Britain is back on track

September 2011

What is the secret of this manufacturing ‘comeback’ story, in a country whose economy is often characterized as ‘post-industrial’?

Cars: The global business of Britain is back on track

During the 1950s, the UK was the second-largest global manufacturer of cars (after the United States). Spearheaded by companies such as Leyland, Triumph, Rover and Jaguar, Britain’s car exports were then the world’s largest.

However, rising production costs and strong German and Japanese competition led to dwindling mass car production under UK domestic ownership during the 1970s and 1980s. Yet despite the disappearance of big names like Leyland, UK car manufacturing has since rebounded, albeit largely under foreign ownership.

Since 2000, total output has generally exceeded one million cars per year (and twice as many car engines). What is the secret of this manufacturing ‘comeback’ story, in a country whose economy is often characterized as ‘post-industrial’? As this article explains, the answer involves a range of factors that include global interactions with foreign TNCs, growth of the EU common market and on-going support for the car industry from successive UK governments.


  • AS/A2 teaching of globalisation, trade and industrial location
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In the Members' Area:

  • Bouncing back: the story of UK cars
  • Going global: profiling the new players

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