So will Liz say howdy Audi? PM may be forced to ride in a German car

So will Liz say hello Audi? Liz Truss must choose a new car… but with Jaguar cutting its limos, the new PM may have to look to a German engine

Spare a thought for Liz Truss. Never mind the economic and political minefield the new British Prime Minister has to negotiate. She also has to choose a new car.

And despite the desire to ‘buy British’, the new car would have to be German – one of ten new ministerial Audi A8 armored limousines no less – because there is no suitable British alternative available. It is also a dilemma faced by many British motorists.

Traditionally, British prime ministers proudly display the flag while being chauffeured around in a British limousine.

Bad image ? Britain may be forced to use an armored Audi for the Prime Minister’s vehicle – as there is no suitable UK-built alternative

Jaguars and Daimler badged variants have been the norm since the 1980s.

Before that it was Rovers, like the recently auctioned P5 used for chauffeur Margaret Thatcher and sold for £36,000, and before that the stately Humber Pullmans enjoyed by prime ministers from Winston Churchill to Sir Alec Douglas- Home.

The current official Downing Street vehicle is an armored Jaguar XJ limousine, built in a former Spitfire factory at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. But it hits a little.

I witnessed its glitzy launch in July 2009 when this XJ (model codename X351) was unveiled at a star-studded party at London’s Saatchi Gallery by model Elle Macpherson and American TV host Jay Leno.

Armored versions of this XJ carried former Prime Ministers David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

In July 2019, Jaguar Land Rover confirmed plans to build a successor to the all-electric XJ luxury sedan ahead of a planned 2020 launch.

But last year bosses took issue with it, noting “that the planned replacement for the XJ does not match our vision of a reimagined Jaguar brand”.

So that was it. Bosses say no new Jaguars will be revealed until 2024, with the first going on sale from 2025.

Dilemma: Prime Minister Liz Truss will be under pressure to ‘buy Brits’

Spotting an opportunity, wily Audi – part of German giant Volkswagen Group – dove in to offer a fleet of its flagship armored A8s to be assessed for Downing Street duties, via the Metropolitan Police.

Audi got its foot in the door years ago by quietly approaching the royal family – starting with Diana, then William and Harry, who were often photographed driving their latest models.

It also targeted celebrities and VIPs, with a fleet of Audi limousines dropping off and picking up guests at every major red carpet event.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Jaguar ran into a similar problem with Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair (with John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott as transport secretary) when the launch of its next-generation XJ limousine (codename X350) was delayed.

Germany’s BMW stepped in to gift Number 10 its new armored 7 Series – a story I told exclusively in the Daily Mail, titled ‘The Blair Panzer’.

So when it comes to ‘buying Brits’, the challenge facing Miss Truss – and Mr Blair before her – is shared by millions of British car buyers.

Miles on the clock: The current official Downing Street vehicle is an armored Jaguar XJ limousine, built in a former Spitfire factory at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham

Because at the beginning of the 21st century and in a globalized automobile industry, the question remains: what exactly is a “British” car?

Until the 1960s and early 1970s, it was simple. It was a car produced by a British manufacturer owned by British owners in a British factory.

Many car companies in the UK had been nationalized and owned by the state, but had also suffered strikes and poor quality during the troubled years of British Leyland.

At the time, a Rover – like the P5 favored by doctors and the wealthy middle classes – or a sporty MG were an easy choice.

How British cars went global…

However, unlike the more protectionist Germany and France, the UK’s laissez-faire policies of the 1980s saw much of our indigenous car industry take over from foreign rivals.

Since then, experts no longer speak of “the British car industry”, but of “the car industry in Great Britain”.

And nowhere was that more evident than at the Queen’s funeral, when a host of British luxury brands were on official duty.

  • The Queen’s coffin was transported in a converted and enlarged Jaguar XJ hearse. There were fleets of old and new relief Range Rovers – also built in Britain.
  • But although Jaguar Land Rover employs thousands of people in British factories and currently holds three royal warrants, it is owned by giant Indian conglomerate Tata.
  • Some key models, such as the new Defender and Discovery, are built in a huge new factory in Nitra, Slovakia.
  • Two State Bentleys and a number of Bentayga 4x4s were on duty from automaker Crewe for the Queen’s funeral. But, like Audi, Bentley belongs to the German Volkswagen group.
  • Rolls-Royce epitomizes Britishness, and the company’s latest models are built in an exclusive boutique factory at Goodwood near Chichester. But it belongs to German BMW.
  • MINI is another classic British car brand with vehicles built primarily in Oxford. But it is also owned by BMW, which builds MINI models in China.
  • Morgan, based in Malvern, Worcestershire, manufactures hand-built classic sports cars including the Plus Four and adrenaline-pumping Super 3 three-wheelers. Often seen as Britain’s last carmaker, European investment group Investindustrial owns a majority stake in the 113-year-old company.
  • Aston Martin and McLaren have significant foreign backers while Lotus, MG and Rover are all Chinese owned.

Not easy, is it?

1970s lost car nostalgia

“Lost Cars of the 1970s” is a nostalgic and informative look at 60 diverse cars with fascinating stories

Do you remember Clan Crusader? Volkswagen Derby? Or the Vauxhall Firenza?

Neither do most people now – although there is an example of the latter at the brilliant British Motor Museum in Gaydon, Warwickshire.

But in a quirky and entertaining book, award-winning author Giles Chapman shines the spotlight on a decade of forgotten classics that predicted what was to come or pointed to a future that never quite materialized.

‘Lost Cars of the 1970s’ (on sale from 6 October, The History Press, £17.99) is a nostalgic and informative look at 60 diverse cars with fascinating histories.

Chapman says, “Victims and secondary events in automotive history around the world are finally getting the recognition they deserve.”

Among the forgotten projects were Italy’s clever plan to update the Mini; the American electric runabout that paved the way for Tesla; sleek, handcrafted British sports cars; the Japanese limo meant to do 25 mph; and the “safety car” that has become a Polish workhorse.

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