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Car confidential: In tough times, it’s survival of the fittest

When times are tough, only the fittest survive. We’re seeing that in the world’s banking markets and we’ll see it in the motor industry too.

It’s only a few short years since MG Rover went belly up and many pundits reckon we’ll see more casualties before we stop hearing the words ‘credit crunch’ on every other news bulletin.

Barely a day goes by when we don’t hear of jihad at GM, crisis at Chrysler or a slump in sales. It’s small wonder people building, selling and servicing cars are worried for their jobs.

Some may sink, but others will swim. After all, hardship breeds ingenuity. Just flick through the history books and see who’s pulled off a blinder when their backs are against the wall.

Ford memorably banished memories of the woeful Escort with the feisty Focus Mk1. Chrysler has frequently pulled itself out of a hole with sexy or ingenious products like the 300C hot rod or Voyager minivan. 

And then there’s Lotus, which wouldn’t be here today were it not for the timeless appeal of the Elise.
These were companies playing brinkmanship with financial meltdown which fought back with sensational new products. 

And at the end of the day, that’s the only answer to the problems besetting today’s industry.

Where are the saviour cars of 2008?

There aren’t many about. The only model at next month’s Paris Motor Show with any chance of saving the ranch is the Chevrolet Volt – one of the first production plug-in hybrids, that could just redefine modern transport and pull GM out of a rather big hole.

Forget propping up stuttering factories with government subsidies – the great leveller of the modern marketplace is the quality of your wares. Cars people want will sell; duds won’t.

That’s always been true, but never truer than when times are tight.

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