Which Car: How can I buy British?

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Brian Hoare, 65, has owned and driven around 10 cars since passing his test in 1960. He has stuck with British cars from Morris, Austin, MG and Rover. He wants to continue buying British and is thinking of replacing his P-reg Rover 1.4 saloon with a Rover 75 or Jaguar S-type. But he asks how British are these? Are there other volume car manufacturers that are more British in the sense of having a high proportion of parts actually sourced in this country?

Brian Hoare, 65, has owned and driven around 10 cars since passing his test in 1960. He has stuck with British cars from Morris, Austin, MG and Rover. He wants to continue buying British and is thinking of replacing his P-reg Rover 1.4 saloon with a Rover 75 or Jaguar S-type. But he asks how British are these? Are there other volume car manufacturers that are more British in the sense of having a high proportion of parts actually sourced in this country?

First of all, hats off to Brian for remaining so consistently loyal to the indigenous UK car industry, which has not been easy over the last few decades.

The fact is, though, that UK car production has been hitting an all-time high. Last year car output rose 1.7 per cent to 1,657,558 units, so although some of the production goes for export, the chances of getting a UK-built car are quite high.

However, it is more complicated than that. Increasing numbers of parts are now sourced from around the world because of fluctuating exchange rates and lower local labour rates. Interestingly Ford, who have an association with the UK that goes back to building Model Ts in Manchester, no longer assemble any cars here. However, Ford owns both the Jaguar and Land Rover brands.

Tradition, though, means little in this globalised world. The new Mini may be built in Oxford by BMW, but the engine comes from South America. Rover's CityRover may sound British and be sold by MG Rover dealers, but it is built in India. So where does that leave us?

A car for the head

Rover is still our largest wholly owned manufacturer. It is possible to nit-pick through the range, though -- the Rover 75 was designed by BMW, while the 45 is related to an old Honda. You can also find some BMW and Peugeot diesel engines in the line-up.

Even so Brian will not go too far wrong with a Rover, but it depends whether it is the ownership or manufacturing issue that concerns him most. You can still support UK jobs and suppliers by investing in a UK-built foreign car. For some time, Honda has been making cars in Swindon. The Civic is the most popular in its hatchback sector and is probably closest in size and ability to Brian's old Rover.

Honda says that this model, along with the Accord and CRV, have 80 per cent local content and, with the exception of the Accord Type R, the engines and gearboxes are all made at the factory.

Brian might also consider the Nissan Almera or Primera, built in the North-East. Nissan claim around 70 per cent of local content, although the trend with the smaller Micra is the other way as suppliers from the eurozone prove to be more competitive.

A car for the heart

In an ideal world, I get the feeling that Brian wants a car built in Britain by a wholly owned British company. Even telling him that the Peugeot 206 GTi 180 and 206 SW are exclusively built in Coventry by 3,500 workers and around 14,000 in the supply chain may not convince him to buy a Peugeot.

If Brian wanted to have some fun then a TVR would be the obvious choice. They build their own bodies, engines and interiors and could not be more bulldog Brit. As yet they have no plans to make a small-engined hatchback, which is a shame.

Maybe Brian would consider revisiting his past and buy his favourite classic then restore and update it so that it was 100 per cent British and able to cope with modern motoring conditions. In reality that plan would be costly and time-consuming and could bring back all sorts of bad motoring memories.

It would be much easier to buy a Rover 75 saloon which looks like a period motoring piece and is supremely comfortable in an a reassuringly old-fashioned way. There is no doubt that Brian will be supporting a significant part of our industry with a 75.

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