Motoring: Gavin Green's column

Rolls-Royce and Bentley, the pride of the British motor industry, formed a small, obscure part of Volkswagen's superstand

IT'S EASY to get depressed about Britain's indigenous car industry, and not just because it's all foreign-owned. Our biggest locally-owned car maker is now TVR, which makes a handful of butch and slightly silly sports cars in a converted shed in Blackpool.

But if we think bigger, we can just about kid ourselves that Rover, MG, Land Rover, Mini, Rolls-Royce and Bentley are European rather than German companies. And, with rich German parents, their futures are as bright and rosy as they were back in the good ol' days.

That's what I'd like to think, anyway. Sadly, the recent Paris Salon, the biggest European motor show of the year, suggested otherwise.

Rolls-Royce and Bentley, the pride of the British motor industry, formed part of a Volkswagen superstand. And rather a small and obscure part of it, to be frank.

About the only time that the press noticed Bentley and Rolls-Royce was when VW's boss, Ferdinand Piech, stood on a high platform, and barked his address to the gathered hacks in high-pitched German. There were no obvious translation facilities, either for English or French speakers (and we were in Paris).

Mind you, Volkswagen is an extraordinarily successful company. Piech doesn't come across as much of a charmer, but he clearly has a brain the size of a planet, and his company makes great cars.

Sadly, BMW-owned Rover has one of the worst ranges. The new 75 saloon, to be unveiled at the Birmingham Show in a just over a week, could be the saviour. It certainly looks promising. But with Rover's biggest factory about to go on a four-day week, with big job losses imminent, and with a pounds 500m loss in prospect, Rover's BMW managers must be considering what many analysts are already suggesting - namely, that the company should be rationalised and stick to what it does best - concentrate on Land Rover, MG and Mini.

About the only good news for Britain seems to be Jaguar. In Paris, Ford- owned Jaguar had its own stand and its own identity. It conveyed an air of confidence. The other UK marques all looked like insignificant and slightly pathetic offspring of overbearing parents.

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