Byline: Alan Wenban-Smith
The difficulties faced by JLR (and others in the West Midlands automotive industry) are neither short term nor local. The industry has had global over-capacity and brutally high costs for decades.
The perfect storm of climate change, oil depletion and credit crunch has tuned these factors into a particular crisis for a niche maker of luxury cars. Whether the recession is long (reducing the market) or short (causing fuel costs to burgeon again) this is not a sustainable business model.
Any financial bailout to grapple the immediate problems must not just 'polyfilla' over this global issue. There are also other local reasons for a rethink about JLR and its expertise.
As a city and region we have become dangerously car-dependent, suffering from the congestion, urban sprawl and environmental degradation that is the result of our over-indulgence in the motor car. This has damaged our economy as well as our health and quality of life. And compared with more economically successful cities on the continent (and indeed with London) we lack the public transport infrastructure needed to break out of car-dependency.
Successful cities respond to changing markets by being able to mobilise new combinations of skills, capacity and institutions quickly and efficiently. To exploit the full economic potential of a city the size of Birmingham we need to promote a better quality and quantity of contact and interaction between people.
An attractive and accessible city centre is crucial, but, as was shown 20 years ago, it cannot be delivered as long as we continue to depend so heavily on the car.
So here is a way forward: we need to reduce car-dependency and we need a radical upgrade of our public transport systems. …