In the first three months of this year, the UK recorded its first motor trade surplus since 1976. The last time Britain sold more cars than it imported, the British Leyland Rover 3500 began to roll off the production lines (when strikes permitted: see this brilliant clip from Dominic Sandbrook’s recent BBC series The 70s).
We British tend to think everything’s going to the dogs, particularly when it comes to manufacturing. In fact the UK auto industry is in pretty good shape. Last year, over 1.3 million cars were produced here, and the UK is major centre of high-value activities like design.
The UK industry is not on the same scale as China (14.4m cars) and Germany (5.8m cars). And Iran, surprisingly, just pips Britain on car production, with 1.4 million in 2011. But it’s good to know we can still make and sell things, and not just services.