Déjà vu

The saying déjà vu is French for “already seen” or describes an experience or feeling that one has witnessed or experienced. In this case I am referring to the demise of the British car industry in which I was fully entrenched and experienced from the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s.

During those years I was working for small independent companies that took on the overspill from the major OEMs, commisioned properties to compete against their in-house models or show vehicles that had to be completed in a short time frame. Years of working long hours with great satisfaction to a sudden uncertainty, then nothing. That was the experience that many tradesmen suffered, being told in no uncertain terms to “get on your bike” to secure work.

During those troubled years, British Leyland, created in 1968 as a nationalized company which incorporated most of the British owned car industry, British Motor Holdings and Leyland Motor Corporation would undergo numerous name changes such as the Rover Group in 1986, then the MG Rover Group, which would eventually go bankrupt in 2005. This essentially ended the reign of mass produced automobiles by a British owned manufacturer. You may well ask, why did this happened and the long and the short of it is, competing against itself at all levels in the same market, badge engineering and craftsmanship that could not compete with other manufacturers.

During the pass few weeks we have been anticipating whether Toyota Motor Corporation would surpass GM as the largest mass producer of automobiles and last week it was realized with headlines on blogs and in business sections of most newspapers across America, making statements like, “Toyota Replaces GM as the World’s Largest Automaker” from The Truth About Cars, “Toyota overtakes GM in global sales” from Automotive News and “Hell freezes over – GM fades to No.2″ from Autoextremist.

OK, the inevitable has happened but is it the end of the world, I don’t think so, in fact it could be a blessing in disguise. With this shift in status, the spotlight is now on the new number one, Toyota, leaving GM the ability to concentrate on it’s own turn-around operation without sweating about when it will lose that coveted crown, it’s already happened. With the reduction of vehicles being off-loaded to rental companies of course the numbers will be down but it also means that the consumer may have a vehicle who’s resale has just risen also.

To be competitive drastic measures have to be taken, emphasis has to be on design to produce vehicles that people want. Quality has to be second to none and attention has to be paid to the voice of the people, especially in times when gas is $3.00+ a gallon. Diversify the product line not badge engineer, seperate the brands so that it means something. The new product that is reaching the road is better but still needs refinement. To make people believe will take time and this can only be achieved with a near flawless product. Toyota have proved that you don’t have to have the best design but a product that is inoffensive, well built and reliable.

I have seen the results of an impasse, that lesson can be had from the mistakes made by the British Auto Indusry, so now is the time to curb egos and put the good of the company first, afterall product is KING.

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