This month brings mixed news on the motoring front.
The French government now seems likely to abandon its experimental 80kph (50mph) speed limit which applied to all roads except dual carriageways and autoroutes.Intended to last until July 2020, the limit was already deeply resented by a populace that has long believed government road safety measures like this are simply a means to raise revenue.
The fact that radar detectors have long been banned, that camera positions are often hidden and that a 5kph infraction still incurs a fine rather lends support to this. In 2017 alone speed camera income amounted to €1 billion, 91% of which was invested in more ‘road safety measures’.
When the gilets jaunesas well as occupying roundabouts and holding up traffic also took their ire out on speed cameras (60% are now apparently wrecked or inoperative) the government quietly began to have second thoughts about a measure which has turned out to be an aggravation too far.
Even before the protesters did their worst, the fact that the ministry of transport had failed to release any road accident statistics during the first six months of the blanket 80kph caused many observers to conclude that this particular safety measure had not brought the anticipated lowering of the accident rate.
The dismal news from the SMMT that investment in the UK car industry had fallen from £2.5 billion in 2015 to a mere £500 million in 2018 is alas no surprise. News about Nissan cancelling investment in a new X-Trail line at Sunderland and Ford plannng to offer voluntary redundancy to about 400 staff in Bridgend, are causes for concern even if the reasons are more complex than many might imagine.
Since the referendum, the car manufacturers have been insistent, stridently so in the case of BMW, that without a customs agreement, the whole British manufacturing operation, entirely dependent on just-in-time delivery, will suffer. They deny that Brexit incertainty is the reason, but several OEMs have over the last two years quietly sited manufacture which could have come to Britain in mainland Europe or China.
Some UK tier one and two suppliers may even go out of business. And still the warring factions in the Palace of Westminster do not get it. It would hardly be the British way, but do we need to don hi-viz waistcoats and block the M25 before our politicians’ inaction blocks the ports?
On a brighter note, entries have started coming in for our annual PR Driving Day at Castle Combe, this year on 5 June, and it looks like being a very popular event as usual.
If you are in automotive public relations and regularly attend or are just learning about it for the first time, you can save money on the registration fee this year if you put down your name before 25 February via our on-line dedicated site.
We hope to see you there.
Kieron Fennelly | Vice-chairman WGMW