So long Longbridge

Heart-breaking business reality finally steam-rollers the Rover dream. Having been through one liquidation (a bit smaller, I’ll admit) I feel pretty confident in saying that Rover is tragically but definitely history – its passing will be painfully and pointlessly deferred, though, because the UK Government can’t acknowledge that the Phoenix route may have been the wrong one – at least not until after the election. The sad thing is that I can’t have been the only person who thought Rover was done for five years ago when the Phoenix fantasy got the Government OK and £500M in cash.

What I’m wondering now is: what if some clever and realistic executives (not the ones who just took £30M out of the business, for instance) picked up the assets left behind and turned them into a green transport powerhouse. There are no significant UK manufacturers of hybrid or Hydrogen powerplants, of interesting non-carbon transport tech or of low emissions vehicles in general. Since the Hydrogen war has already been well-and-truly won (in a few years we’re going to be talking about Big Hydrogen and the people behind Big Hydrogen are going to be… Big Oil!) now’s the time to invest in Hydrogen transport tech. Wouldn’t it be exciting if those 6,000 jobs (or a serious fraction of them) could be recycled into a really promising, really long-term business instead of being flushed down the toilet..?

Update: Wired this month has a bunch of interesting green power articles: Brendan Koerner looks at Toyota’s ambition to be the number 1 hybrid/Hydrogen manufacturer, Paul Eisenstein tests all the current hybrids, and there are a lot of them: they’re going to catch on quicker than you expected. Lisa Margonelli reckons the Chinese will be driving hybrid uptake, which is encouraging.


  1. I grew up fairly near the Longbridge plant and have watched it gradually decline over the last 15 or so years. If Rover does fold it’s going to be one of the largest brownfield sites in the country and your idea makes a lot of sense. It’s brilliantly connected, has a very highly skilled workforce and could give Birmingham just the boost it needs to go beyond the short term buzz that the new city centre has provided. I’m not sure the big players in Birmingham will see it that way though. Most seem firmly rooted in an early 1980s industrial mentality.

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