Maggie and Motoring

No doubt you will know that former PM Margaret Thatcher has died during the early hours on the 8th of April. Memories of her government have come into question all these years later. When she left office after eleven years as PM it was the end of an era. Many will mourn her death and will tell you that her lasting legacy on Britain was a positive one. Other’s believed that she had made some big mistakes and left 10 Downing street and the UK with terrible financial problems in 1990. Opinion is divided on the former Prime Minister’s government. Especially as one of the first things she did was to wage war with the Trade Unions once she had come into power. But how did her actions affect Britain’s car industry?

Margaret Thatcher did her best to save and build upon a failing motoring industry. When she entered the government the country’s motoring industry was made up of a few failing companies that had gone bust or were on their way there. At this time Rolls Royce was still owned by the public. It had become nationalized a few years before in 1973 after it had gone bust. The few sales were mainly of the ‘Silver Shadow’ model. The new ‘Spirit’ did not seem to be as popular as the cars that had come before. In 1980 Bentley was also in a similar state with flagging sales of their most popular cars.

She knew that a thriving car manufacturing industry would be highly beneficial to the economy, especially during the recession that the country was in the middle of. So Thatcher attempted to bring stability to it by making some notable changes. First and foremost she encouraged large and foreign car manufacturers to set up shop in the UK. It was mainly the Japanese car manufacturers that she targeted creating a win win situation. The UK needed these companies that had wanted to expand in Europe anyway. So why not build factories in Britain? This was a good move and ensured that Britain continued to mass produce high quality cars. It brought jobs and money in parts of the country that were suffering from high levels of unemployment.

The development of cars themselves was also given a boost! New models began to roll off the production line replacing some of the more staid cars people were used to seeing. The Prime Minister did all she could to encourage innovation in motoring. In 1979 the ‘Metro’ was meant to be a modern replacement to the Mini. Although this wasn’t the case as the Mini remained popular, it hailed the start of a range of new more exotic looking models.

TVR on the other hand were doing extremely well as were De Lorean. Especially when Margaret Thatcher agreed to the building of a £12 million dollar car manufacturing plant in Belfast. She also knew that the only way for Austin Rover to survive would be for it to team up with another more successful company. This is where Honda stepped in and the ‘Triumph’ car was born. The 1980′s was truly the era for the sporty car and a lot of this was down to the international influence that Margaret Thatcher encouraged.


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