Another hand of clod

  15 June 2010

The news that China’s Changan Automobile has announced plans to set-up a research and development centre in Nottingham will, I am sure, please everyone in the East Midlands. And that will include auto retailers who will find yet more available technical talent drawn to the region.

The facility will enable Changan to collaborate with UK automotive R&D companies and will also help UK companies win business with Changan. The UK centre is due to open before the end of the year, and will focus on transmission technologies as well as investigation into ‘new energy’ electric and hybrid vehicles which may involve the local universities. The facility in Nottingham will initially employ 25-30 people, but that is expected to increase to 200 within the next three years.

The Chinese company has nine production bases and 21 complete vehicle factories in China, and had 2009 turnover of about GBP 6bn. With such huge facilities at its disposal in its domestic market, therefore, why would it wish to invest in such a high-cost facility outside China when it could create one at lower cost in its own country?

I suspect the answer is that Changan accepts that there is a deeper wealth of skilled talent in the English Midlands which is far more experienced than anything to be found in new car making regions such as China.

The Changan deal should also be seen as a tribute to the East Midlands Development Agency which played a key role in bringing Changan to Nottingham’s Science Park.

My next question, therefore, is why, on the back of such a deal, has the coalition government ear-marked the development agency as one for the chop as part of its round of cost-cutting? It is not as if the agency had fumbled the deal and let it slip through its hands. Had it done so it might deserve to be on the chopping block. It sounds like another ‘hand of clod’.

Have a great week, both in and out of the showroom. If you have a story for us or simply want to get something off your chest, email

Barry Hook

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