Since the dawn of the motor car, the city of Coventry has been forever tied with the automotive industry. The first British car was built in Coventry in 1897, with rapid growth taking place. By the 1950s, Coventry had established itself as Britain’s ‘motor city’, featuring big brands like the British Motor Corporation, Jaguar and Rootes Group. The UK was the second-biggest car manufacturer in the world. However in the 1970s and ‘80s, the car industry declined, especially in Coventry.
Recently, there have been a series of initiatives geared towards restoring Coventry as an automotive hub. Jaguar Land Rover have partnered with the University of Warwick within the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an organisation that includes other leading manufacturers in the city. This has helped Coventry become a research and development nucleus.
In 2019, Coventry’s research and development sector will be boosted by the opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre. The £150 million project is backed by Jaguar, WMG and the UK government. The Centre will “provide a critical mass of research capability combining automotive expertise nationally and internationally.” The NAIC is being presented as a base for advanced research and new design development.
Lord Bhattacharyya is the person in charge of returning Coventry to its glory days. He founded WMG in 1980. According to him “Jaguar Land Rover is now next door, there are suppliers coming here, and there may be one or two other car companies who might be here. I want to be very similar to Stuttgart, or Munich, or Michigan. Coventry city council is very cooperative in doing that, which is a central factor.”
“The combination of Coventry city council and us and say Jaguar Land Rover – we can produce a motor city here. There are various things that Jaguar Land Rover is thinking of doing here that I can’t talk about, but they are expanding hugely. Already they have created nearly 5000 jobs in Coventry over the last five years.”
Researchers believe Coventry can be rejuvenated. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has predicted car production in the UK will surpass 2 million a year by 2020. Professor of industry at Aston University, David Bailey said “there is an arc of research and development that goes from Horiba Mira into Coventry itself and then down to the motorsports industry and Silverstone. Probably about 90% of R&D in the motor industry is in that space it is a fantastic asset.”
“We don’t do low-level assembly anymore in the UK. We do design-intensive cars and we are going into low carbon. We are about to be able to make more cars than ever before, remarkably.”
The future looks bright for the car industry in Coventry. With the amount of investment and the passion of the people in charge, it feels like the city could become an important automotive hub again.