To save Honda’s workers and the planet we should buy it!

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Honda closure
To save Honda’s workers and the planet we should buy it

Sounds radical? Or just downright common sense?

Remain or Leave the Honda assembly plant will close down seeing thousands out of work; job losses no one wants. These skilled workers that trained in TPS (Toyota Production System) are highly motivated, intelligent, and experienced in all aspects of motor manufacturing and vehicle assembly.

The UK government should not only ensure these workers retain their jobs, but that the country also retains their skills. To do that the Government should buy the Honda plant bringing it into public ownership and make British vehicles green and efficient, and fit for the 21st century.

The chances are we could see other Japanese motor manufacturing companies leave the UK. The EU has a tariff free trade deal with Japan, what incentive is there to stay?

Reclaiming the motor industry

This is not some daft lefty pipedream or a right wing nationalist extreme view, but a very practical solution with precedence and a way forward. The UK has had a reliance on foreign car manufacturers since we entered the common market. What we should be doing is exactly what the US government did when it rescued GM and Chrysler in the Great Recession. While Renault and VW have long histories of having a state stake in their companies, this is also true of many of the Japanese firms who have had some sort of bailout over the years. So it’s not unusual.

Indeed, the alternative is closure. The government should ensure that the workers and the plant remain UK assets. So the deal would be that the UK government takes ownership of the plant, and retains the real value which are the workers. They can then start to make British cars. Again it is not unprecedented for our government to take ownership of an industry or to retain jobs be it for the long or short term. We only need look back a few years to the bank bailouts and the government’s takeover of RBS. Or do they only intervene when the jobs at risk are white collar workers – the ‘too big to fail bankers’?

Now would be a prime opportunity to rebalance the economy even if is only in a modest way, in a much needed restructuring that favours manufacturing. Not only would this retain jobs but it would create jobs, and create a British chain of satellite supply companies again cutting the environmentally unfriendly long hauls of ‘just-intime supply chains’. The question would be is the government motivated and forward thinking enough to take the necessary steps?

Government investment into Faraday scale-up facility to make UK a world leader in battery innovation

The government announced it will invest £246 million into the research and development of battery technology and £25 million into connected and autonomous vehicle development.

The four-year £246 million investment, known as the Faraday Challenge, will form a key part of the government’s industrial strategy, which aims to tackle long-term challenges in the UK economy by increasing productivity and driving growth across the country. The strategy is funded by the £1 billion Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

  • The government confirms details of £120 million of government’s flagship Faraday Battery Challenge investment into making the UK a world leader in the development and production of battery technology.
  • £80 million is set to be invested in a new state-of-the-art automotive battery development facility (the UK’s first ever facility of this kind), based in the West Midlands following a successful bid by a consortium led by Coventry and Warwickshire LEP and including Warwick Manufacturing Group.
  • The government will shortly publish details of its Automotive Sector Deal agreement reached with industry, with a strategic vision that builds on the collaborative partnership established between the government and the auto sector.
  • The Business Secretary also confirms £53 million of funding for new aerospace projects boosting the West Midlands strength in this sector.

This investment and more should not be used for the private sector but for a state owned motor manufacturing company that can ensure real competition.

Can we trust the private sector?

The UK has an opportunity to make this loss into a gain as the environment is fighting a losing battle with the motor industry and the vehicles it produces. The motor industry is at this moment under investigation for holding back technologies to produce greener more efficient vehicles.

Germany’s beleaguered car industry is facing another regulatory tangle, as the European Union opened a probe into Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW over suspected collusion that could have delayed clean-emissions technology for cars.

The investigation (which could lead to heavy fines), focuses on joint technical talks to develop selective catalytic reduction systems to reduce nitrogen-oxides emissions from diesel cars and Otto particulate filters for gasoline engines.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said

“These technologies aim at making passenger cars less damaging to the environment”

Allegations of a cartel emerged last year in Germany’s Spiegel magazine, which reported that VW, Daimler and BMW began meeting in the 1990s to coordinate activities related to vehicle technology, costs, suppliers and strategy as well as diesel emissions controls. LINK

The cartel collusion between Germany’s biggest carmakers

The diesel scandal is not a failure on the part of individual companies, but rather the result of collusion among German automakers that lasted for years. Audi, BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Porsche coordinated their activities in more than a thousand meetings. LINK

Let’s do it differently

Green electric vehicles
Green electric vehicles

We should move to make green and electric vehicles right here, in Swindon, with the skills of British workers. There is no need to start from scratch as we have already heavily invested in new technologies within the motor industry at taxpayers, expense, and Tesla the leading manufacturer in EV’s (Electric Vehicles) has given the world their free patent. LINK Tesla has not been short of state funding. The company’s only downfall has been repeatedly being too far ahead in its own field.

Tesla’s goal of creating an affordable EV in order to reach a wider range of consumers

Musk said that while Tesla Motors originally sought patents in order to protect themselves, they realised they were really just limiting the competition in a field that they had hoped to expand, not constrict.

“At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla,” Musk elaborated. “We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.”

Musk lamented that most major auto manufacturers have EVs that aren’t attractive to consumers due to their limited range, if they have EVs at all. With one hundred million new vehicles hitting the roads every year, Musk believes there is plenty of room for everyone manufacturing EVs to thrive.

“Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard,” Musk concluded.

We need to change our government and the way we do things

Britain needs a progressive forward thinking government.The changes outlined would only be achievable under Jeremy Corbyn and a left wing Labour government that has a vision that will work for the workers and not just the rich. The Build it in Britain campaign is the beginning of that vision.

In 2018 Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s new ‘Build it in Britain’ campaign which seeks to ensure a stronger future for industry and support better jobs and opportunities.

Speaking at EEF’s Technology Hub in Birmingham, Jeremy Corbyn extolled the virtues of a “real industrial strategy”; one that would transform the shape of our economy, see the UK better compete on the international stage, and see prosperity shared by “every region and nation of the UK”. He also highlighted the need for investment – which he described as being vital if the UK was “to succeed in the future”.

Commenting on the government’s recent release of its Brexit white paper, Corbyn noted that Theresa May’s “long-awaited Brexit white paper was in shreds within a week” thanks to the efforts of hard-right Conservatives, a situation that pushes the nation ever closer towards “a disastrous ‘No Deal’ Brexit”.

Lack of support for industry

According to the Labour leader, for too long “we’ve been told that it’s good, even advanced for our country to manufacture less and less and to rely on cheap labour abroad to produce imports while we focus on the City of London and the financial sector.”

He continued: “A lack of support for manufacturing is sucking the dynamism out of our economy, pay from the pockets of our workers, and any hope of secure well-paid jobs from a generation of our young people.”

The state currently spends more than £200bn a year in the private sector, a tremendous “lever” that could help support our domestic industry by encouraging businesses to invest in “cutting-edge investment, high-quality service and doing right by communities.”

However, the government’s focus has all too-often focused on overseeing the decline of industry, rather than its growth.

Forward into tomorrow

Corbyn is right to have this positive vision. Only a willingness to see change will act as the catalyst to start the cogs of industry rolling. Investing in our own technologies and manufacturing may well start the fourth industrial revolution that shapes the 21st century.

We might well face the challenge of being told by the EU that we can’t use state aid to prop up an ailing manufacturing concern and thus be faced with extra tariffs on exports to the EU; but that still leaves open partners and markets in the rest of the world.

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