My father was a professional gambler. Mum preferred property, antique and stock market investments. Their only son served time as an Economist Intelligence Unit writer and consultant, and has been the Daily Telegraph’s Mr Money columnist for years. I therefore know a bit about forecasting, predicting, prophesising, placing ‘safe’ bets, crystal ball gazing, making presumptions, having a punt and speculating. I also know that these verbs are largely redundant and should be replaced by a simpler word: guessing.
True, there is such a thing as an educated guess. And that’s exactly what my ‘predictions’ for 2008 are. So here goes. When the Fiat 500 arrives at the end of the month, it will be the most exciting real-world model available. Tata’s £1,250 paupermobile, on the other hand, will be a dog. But it could revolutionise car retailing if it arrives in our showrooms.
If this week’s reports are anything to go by, it seems certain that Tata will buy Jaguar and Land Rover – particularly as it’s the only bidder left! And no, the Indians will not succeed where past owners have failed. Expect the Coventry and Solihull sites to become housing estates, and for Jag and LR jobs and production to be transferred to a foreign country with lower costs. India? Why not?
Not that the Midlands will be the only region to suffer motor industry carnage in ’08. Toyota bosses in Tokyo aren’t exactly happy with their ageing Burnaston plant near Derby, and then there’s the even older Nissan shed in Tyne and Wear. So they’ll start planning a shutdown of British factories. The excuse for withdrawal will be that if Ford, Peugeot, MG Rover and TVR have ceased production in a UK run by an anti-car Government, why shouldn’t they?
New vehicle outlets will follow in the footsteps of electrical retailers by massively slashing prices. Sub-£5,000 cars will undoubtedly be on sale here.
Turning to motorsport, Lewis Hamilton cannot become Formula One champ. And Jenson Button stands about as much chance as my granny.
On to transport, and trains will not replace the car, because they’re prohibitively expensive and the lines are as messed up as Network Rail, the company that purports to manage them. Guaranteed are more revelations of public transport entrepreneurs becoming filthy rich via subsidies from taxpayers. Congestion taxes and other scams will widen. Road users will become angrier than poll tax rioters.
Increasingly common 18-metre bendy buses will be exposed as dangerous on the streets of our small land, which will have even less road space per head, thanks to millions more foreigners arriving, living, driving and parking here.
Cynical, profit-obsessed parking laws will get so unbearable that life for some drivers will become hellish. Regrettably, attacks on over-zealous parking enforcers will intensify with tragic and, possibly, fatal consequences.
A car firm will go bankrupt, and although I know which it is, legal reasons prevent me from naming it. Worse still, several makers could do an MG Rover and become insolvent, which is more serious. There will be additional broken promises from the Chinese, who have repeatedly raised and dashed hopes at Longbridge.
On a happier note – and what follows are certainties – VW will build Bluemotion variants that are cleaner, more efficient and often cheaper than Toyota’s Prius. A tiny model from a new British maker will emerge, while a groundbreaking, car-like house/office on wheels with some of the features, but none of the bulk, of a motorhome will also appear.