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‘Car makers and insurance firms need to take a look at the real-world’

Mike Rutherford thinks it’s time wealthy companies in the global car business stepped up to assist those who need help

Opinion - WOMAC

My hope and expectation is that 2024 will be the year of the unsung hero. Both individuals and organisations are needed. There are countless millions of companies and employees in the global car business – but more need to step up and cough up to assist those who need help.     

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Making, selling, taxing, insuring and servicing cars is one of the largest businesses/money generators on the planet, worth trillions of dollars. Among the associated employees are experts in engineering, environmental matters, finance, employment creation, productivity and safety.

Can’t more of this money and expertise be shared? Isn’t it time those who own or run businesses in or around the wealthy automotive world learned to give back more? Maybe they can be taught – and inspired – by the following real-world people and organisations who I’ve had dealings with and can vouch for.

WOMAC (Women On The Move Against Cancer), is a selfless organisation whose 70 volunteers, working in automotive and related fields, have raised and donated over £1million for cancer-related projects, patients and their families and carers.

Ronnie Wilson leads a very different type of charitable organisation – London-based First Step Trust, which does a brilliant job of preparing and training people of all ages and backgrounds for real, paid work in the motor trade – regardless of their lack of confidence, experience, education and/or mental or physical health issues.

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Sporting Bears Motor Club (SBMC) couldn’t be more genuinely grass roots, committed and generous if it tried. Last year at big public events, SBMC members paid their own insurance and fuel costs when offering Dream Rides aboard their personal, modern classic cars, raising £272,000 for children’s charities and foundations. Impressive or what?

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School of Thought is Nottingham-based and passionate about apprenticeships and training for young people. Dave Reece runs the show and is a deep thinker with a welcome alternative approach to education. It’s difficult to believe that one of the world’s top car designers could contribute any more, but Frank Stephenson is doing exactly that, thanks to the new foundation in his name offering, among other things, world-class tuition – some of it free of charge – to budding car designers unable to afford university fees.

Another giant of the car business is Andy Palmer, who is grateful for his game-changing engineering apprenticeship decades ago. Now, via the Palmer Foundation, he’s determined to persuade youngsters to take the same apprentice path. Andy Entwistle is a different type of giver – generously granting valuable exhibition space to some of the above and a few other individuals and charitable organisations at the British Motor Show he runs. This year’s event will probably do more than any other motoring gathering in the UK to provide supervised first drives and proper educational, confidence-building and career advice.

If the huge, wealthy car makers, dealerships and insurance firms aren’t looking at and learning from all of this, then it’s about time that they did.

* Mike serves as a trustee for the Marcus Rutherford Foundation/Young Adult Cancer Trust and is a volunteer worker at the foundation-owned Forest of Marcus. The Vines Church Community Garden is home to the modest Marcus Rutherford Memorial Building funded, part-constructed and maintained by Mike and supported by other members of the Rutherford family. 

In addition to the above unpaid charitable work he does in the UK, on his several unpaid volunteer trips to Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe he has helped build school and orphanage libraries. He led a convoy of Jeep Wranglers stocked with thousands of second hand books that he personally sourced from charity shops and elsewhere in Britain. Additionally, with assistance from Jeep and PFPR Communications, the container he had shipped out to the region included used clothes and footwear plus new stationery which he delivered to folk in hospitals, prisons, OAP homes and remote villages. 

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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