• Video
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Gerry Robinson on the motor industry

Updated Tuesday 9th June 2009

Gerry Robinson explains his thoughts about the car scrappage scheme, government investment and over-capacity in the car industry in an exclusive interview with the Money Programme team.


Copyright BBC




I’m Gerry Robinson. I’ve been in business since the 1960s, I’ve been through some good times and some really tough times. I’m interested to find out how the British car industry is going to cope with the current recession, and to see what form it might take for the future.

Why is there over-capacity in the car industry?

There’s over-capacity in the car industry and, incidentally, that over-capacity was there before the current recession because competitors become more efficient in competing with one another. That competition produces capacity which is greater than the demand and, of course, when demand falls off, as it certainly has in this recession, you have an enormous amount of over-capacity in the system.

Why do policy makers and commentators treat manufacturing as a less significant and declining part of the economy?

I think there is a long history of worrying about manufacturing, but I think maybe Thatcher is at the heart of it. There was a sense that she was going to take on the old unionised manufacturing industry and that that, there was a lot of publicity around at that time that left that feeling around that manufacturing was old and staid and difficult. And at the same time, both she and subsequent Labour governments have given greater support to the service industry, in particular the City, and so I think that flavour, despite the fact that manufacturing is enormously important to us, that flavour has hung around that somehow manufacturing isn’t quite as good as services.

What do you think about the car scrappage scheme?

I do think that the money put into the scrappage scheme, which is limited to £300m, is just a bit of window dressing. It would have been far more effective to increase funds available for people to finance car purchases. The reality is that so much government money has gone into really saving the banking system that there just isn’t a lot of money to go around.

Why should the car industry invest in green technology?

Let’s just take a long view. There isn’t any doubt that oil is going to go up in price as supply diminishes and as demand actually increases. Also there is the whole issue of emission control. Legislation is going to have an impact too because, from 2015, the EU are going to be able to fine people who fail to control emissions.

Why doesn't the Government take into account the overall contribution the industry is making when deciding if they should support it?

You know, I don’t think there’s anything more than an issue of what’s in fashion and what isn’t. I don’t think this Government has really engaged with manufacturing in any serious way up until now. Maybe that’s beginning to change, and I certainly hope so. Early in my own career I saw Lesney Products, which was the company that made Matchbox toys, just fail to compete with cheap overseas labour. I’ve also seen though, in making this programme, how we actually can compete and that labour isn’t just the only part, there are other issues that can be taken into account that make us capable of competing, and I think therefore that’s why I’m actually quite optimistic about the future of manufacturing in Britain, but that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Join in the debate with the Open University.



For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Ken Keir on UK manufacturing Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Money & Business 

Ken Keir on UK manufacturing

Honda Executive Vice Director Ken Keir talks the role of government in promoting manufacturing, the impact of environmental demands and the future for making things in the UK with Leslie Budd of The Open University.

5 mins
Cilla Snowball on industry awards Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University audio icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Cilla Snowball on industry awards

"They validate team effort... and a winning agency"

5 mins
The fall of fashion Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Charty Durrant audio icon

Nature & Environment 

The fall of fashion

Writer and lecturer at the London College of Fashion, Charty Durrant, explains why she left the glitz and glamour of dressing A-list celebrities in order to expose the sinister side of the fashion industry.

5 mins
Making manufacturing motor Creative commons image Icon Wigwam Jones under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Making manufacturing motor

Using the motor industry as an example, Leslie Budd considers the role of manufacturing during the recession.

Big Ideas transport challenge: Types of transport Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Big Ideas transport challenge: Types of transport

This is the list of vehicles that you can choose from to solve James May's transport challenges.

Lifecycle of the Car Industry Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission article icon

Money & Business 

Lifecycle of the Car Industry

PY Gerbeau discusses 'The Lifecycle of the Car Industry' in the BBC/Open University's Rules of the Game.

Getting to the heart of the family business Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: John Pinkerton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons article icon

Money & Business 

Getting to the heart of the family business

Meet John and Elizabeth Shaw. For them, their 19th Century firm was all about the family.

Different types of business Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Ant Clausen/Shutterstock.com free course icon Level 1 icon

Money & Business 

Different types of business

A small grocery store run by one person and perhaps their family must pose quite different challenges from a multinational corporation with operations in many different countries. This free course introduces different types of business, depending on industry sector, size and type of ownership and discusses some of the ways in which businesses differ from each other.

Free course
3 hrs
Shop ethically - and bring individuality back into your wardrobe Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Stylewithheart article icon

Money & Business 

Shop ethically - and bring individuality back into your wardrobe

Having an ecological, ethical wardrobe doesn't mean turning your back on style - far from it, in fact...