Did you know that the the car announced today as the World Car of the Year is built in Liverpool? Possibly not – but you were probably aware of the Range Rover Evoque, even if only subconsciously.

The car has been much spotted around Liverpool over the last two years as the plant that builds the Evoque – a new small luxury crossover SUV with some styling supposedly by Victoria Beckham – is just a few miles out of the city centre at Halewood.

Not only that but Jaguar Land Rover held the official European launch for the car in Liverpool – with a raft of multimedia shot around the city’s most photogenic spots and a launch event that saw the old Wapping Tunnel that connects the docks with Edge Hill reopened for the amusement of journos.

Halewood is churning out Evoques as fast as it’s able to – but demand is outstripping supply to the extent that, should you order one now, you’ll be waiting ’til 2013 to take delivery. So, the Evoque is something of a Liverpool success story, as is the Halewood plant from which it derives.

Just a couple of years ago, as recession gripped the car industry, the future of Halewood was not assured. And a year or so earlier Land Rover had been put up for sale by former owners Ford. It was a tricky spell, but Jaguar Land Rover’s Liverpool plant is held in high regard; so much so that by 2013 there will be 4,500 people working at the plant – treble the number working there three years ago. Look over the water and Vauxhall Ellesmere Port is the ‘Home of the Astra’ – one of GM Europe’s most highly regarded factories.

It was a very different story just a few decades ago. British Leyland’s Triumph plant at Speke was notorious throughout the 1970’s British car industry, hardly renowned as a model of efficiency or industrial harmony, for being bottom of the league in terms of efficiency, productivity, quality, over-manning and absenteeism. In the country.

Not only that but its workforce was hideously work-shy. Mondays and Fridays were generally write-offs at the plant as one in four staff simply gave themselves the day off. Every week. Critics spoke of the ‘Mersey Disease’ – the notion that the region’s workforce were fundamentally lazy, bolshy and thick.

Management and unions were at each others throats and the plant’s state-of-the-art Speke 2 plant was eventually saddled with the fugly Triumph TR7; a car liked by virtually no-one that was a duffer even by British Leyland standards.

Against a background of industrial turmoil, union abuses of power, poor working practices and strong competition from European, US and Japanese manufacturers saw off British Leyland and much of the British car industry.

What remains today of the British car industry is inevitably foreign-owned. But Brits still design many world-beating cars. And we make many of them too. Up in Liverpool we make excellent cars like the Vauxhall Astra and, of course, the Range Rover Evoque.

Driving the latter around Liverpool today it was easy to draw a parallel between this new Range Rover – cool, stylish, individual – with a modern Liverpool unrecognisable from 30 years ago. Perhaps that’s rather trite, but the Evoque is a Liverpool success story is worth acknowledging.

Time was that scousers had a reputation for being good at stealing cars. Nowadays they’re good at making them – including what might be the best car in the world.

Robin Brown

  • bornagainst

    Whilst I support any success in British industry, especially in Liverpool, I do think the Evoque deserves to be seen in harsher light.

    I’m not really sure what a “small luxury crossover SUV” is other than marketing speak for a chelsea tractor that’s been shrunk down for the mums on the school run.

    A car which barely gives you change out of £30,000.. does little more than 30mpg (about the same as a TR7 – surely a prettier car than this?) and 200g/km for CO2.

    Popular / car of the year / status symbol / fashion accessory… yeah, I think it’s probably all those things, but “cool, stylish, individual.”

    Come on!?

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com Robin Brown

    Well, the Evoque doesn’t really fit into any categorisation – how would you describe it?

    ‘Chelsea tractor’ and all that stuff doesn’t really work – the footprint of the Evoque is probably about the same as a hatch like the Focus; many models don’t have four-wheel drive. Mums on the school run will almost certainly be big buyers – but so what?

    The 2.2 turbodiesel Evoques return 50mpg combined – that’s another 70 per cent or so over my 1.4 Ford Puma, which can barely manage mid-30s. CO2 is as low as 129g/km – again, that will be ‘cleaner’ (in CO2 terms) than about eight out of ten cars currently on the road at a rough estimate. These models will be – by far – the best-sellers.

    £30K for a car? Well, it is what it is. If people are prepared to pay it then it isn’t overpriced, by the law of the market. It is a lot of money – but so is any car. Some Fiestas go for well over £15K – that’s expensive. Where do you draw the line? What’s not expensive in the car industry?

    As for styling, well, that’s the ultimate subjective shout isn’t it? Personally I think the TR7 is horribly proportioned and clearly built out of bits of other cars.

    I think the Evoque is cool, stylish and individual – people stopped and asked me about it all day yesterday and it looks like nothing else on the road.

    Whether you agree or disagree the Evoque is picking up awards left, right and centre – and it’s sold out for the best part of a year. Lots of people – in industry, media and among the public love it.

    And in a colour piece on a non-automotive Liverpool-based site that’s realistically as detailed as I wanted to get. I’ll happily go into detail if you want a full review.

  • Doc Daneeka

    CO2 is as low as 129g/km

    Hmmm as EU emission standards are average across a manufacturers range one has to ask whether the reality of most of the units sold will be anywhere near this?

    I’d suggest that the bulk of the texting morons I’ve seen driving them probably opt for the more grunty end of the range.

    Much like the first poster I’m happy to see good manufacturing jobs in the UK and especially locally even more so if we’re flogging this blingy status symbols to the Yanks, Arab princelings and new SE Asian millionaires but lets not pretend its more than it is.

    I’d also hazard a guess that a fair few seven streets readers are less than happy at seeing things like this on the roads given the type of people that tend to buy cars like this and their attitudes to cyclists, pedistrians and red lights.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com Robin Brown

    You’re confusing manufacturer-wide CO2 emissions with model CO2 emissions. In terms of model fuel economy and CO2, they’re homologated independently so as to provide standaridsed figures across the board.

    The model that I drove – the most popular model, as I noted above – returns 50mpg and emits under 130g/km. That’s incredibly good for a car like the Evoque and will be lower than many family cars.

    I’m not pretending the car is more than it is – it is a seriously good car. That’s something that’s borne out by the fact that the car industry has showered it with awards and it’s sold out until next year.

    If you make a shit car, it doesn’t sell. That’s the logic of the market that killed off most of the British car industry in the 70s and 80s.

    Finally, you’ve made a number of snidey remarks that I take exception to – characterising people who buy certain cars as morons is really rather reductive, to say the least.

    Burgeoning use of private cars is a complex issue – painting people who buy certain cars as ignorant idiots is simply lazy, uninformed and misguided. Also, for the record, plenty of people who like cars also like cycling and walking. I’m one of them.

  • Doc Daneeka

    Whilst I’ll admit that I may have commented on anger and thus been a tad snide. there is aa question about when a stereotype, becomes a trend becomes a generally observed rule.
    As someone that cycles in Liverpool its hard to ignore the general link between some types of car and the way their drivers behave. Most cyclists I know have choice set of words that preceed the words BMW, Audi or 4WD.
    As for the emissions I’ll admit that it’d been a while since I looked at this so I apologise for not checking first.

  • http://davidcoveney.com David Coveney

    As an occassional cyclist, past motorcyclist, frequent driver, and parent, I’ll cheerfully say that all of the above can be complete gits. I’ve nearly been mown down by cyclists going fast on pavements, seen others ignore red lights on Edge Lane (and nearly pay the ultimate penalty on one occassion) and I’ve seen a huge number of car drivers act like complete morons – whether in little family cars or enormous Audi 4x4s. Ultimately though, slating any one group is a generalisation as daft and prejudiced as any other, so I’ll hold no truck with it!

    So let’s move onto the Evoque… well, it’s not that expensive. I mean, I can’t afford it, but if you’re running around in the economy models you’re driving something that gives better economy and emissions than my old Civic. So I can’t really slate the green credentials of the car.

    So what next? The styling – well it’s a bit blingy, not to my taste, but I can see why many would love it – especially abroad. And that’s a good thing. It’s a proud, bold car that looks like a concept car made real. Wonderful! I wish more car makers would be so bold – leading with strong and distinctive designs. Jaguar Land Rover seem to be really doing well on that front and given one of their biggest plants is in Liverpool then that’s a good thing for our local economy.

    And Land Rover’s faith in the city, by using it for the official launch rather than shipping journos off to somewhere Balearic… that’s brilliant.

  • Doc Daneeka

    Agreed that its good to see a mutlinational like Jaguar Landrover with lots of options commit to the city and to bringing skilled manufacturing jobs which are so much more valueable than low end retail jobs.

    However recent research would suggest that my pigeon holeing of some drivers based on the cars they drive isn’t mere predjudice. A couple of years ago researchers at, I think UEA, set uop cameras at various junctions to observe drivers and found that 4wd drivers were significantly more likely to be using a mobile phone when driving than drivers of other types of car. And a recent study in the US looked at socio-economic background and law breaking and found that those from higher groups were actually more prone to breaking laws, if I recall one measure they used was car marque and infiringment of driving laws.
    Does this mean that if you drive one of these cars you must be an anti-social driver of course not but its easy to see how investing expensive shiny new ‘presitage’ cars with social status could lead to drivers of those cars becoming more selfish when engaged in driving on public roads something that is essentially a cooperative action which functions only if everyone sticks to the rules.

    Now I’ll admit to being a bit flippant and even rather brash when posting on this issue and maybe even being a bit simplistic in my flash car = bad driver arguement but I’m not sure that this quite puts me the ranks of the EDL as a maker of intolerance and predjudice.

    Oh and if seven streets where interested I’d really like to know if as I’m begining to suspect driving in Liverpool is significantly worse than in other UK cities. Again not trying to be predjudiced but I’ve never seen red light jumping, lack of indicating or phone use to quite the same extent in other cities. Obviously this might be bad luck on my part, confirmation bias, my not comparing like with like in terms of the areas I drive in but I think our driving standard as city is signifcantly poorer and I’m not sure why?

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com Robin Brown

    Maybe there is an issue with some drivers being worse than others. Audi drivers tend to get fingered these days more than anyone else. But you can find a survey to back up just about any line of thinking. Here’s one on ‘worst drivers’:

    Boy and girl racers received the most votes with 72%, followed by elderly motorists on 56% and then the good old white van man in third on 48%. (4×4 drivers down in fifth on 32 per cent).

    Here’s another:

    All of those surveyed by Auto Trader magazine said old drivers were the worst, with 40% reckoning men were generally better behind the wheel than women.

    Also, Londoners were rated the worst drivers in the UK with Sunday motorists considered to the worst type of road user.

    And the survey of nearly 21,000 motorists also found that BMW owners were reckoned to be the worst drivers. (4×4 drivers not mentioned).

    And another:

    New research from Auto Trader Compare has revealed that many of us believe BMW owners to be the worst drivers on Britiain’s roads. 59% of respondents voted BMW driver’s the worst with Subaru drivers second at 42% and Porsche drivers third with 39%. (no mention of Land Rover drivers).

    My point is not that Land Rover or 4×4 drivers may not be bad drivers, but you can sketch an argument out for virtually any types of car driver being worse than others.

    Further, the Evoque can be selected as a two-wheel drive model – and is really no larger than a family car.

    All of this is, however, by-the-bye as far as the article goes in my opinion. The point I was trying to make is that the Evoque is a good car and it’s built in Liverpool. And that’s probably good for Liverpool.

  • Doc Daneeka

    As I said Manufacturing jobs of Merseyside are a good thing.

    I assume that the stuff from the autotrader survey was in response to my question about whether driving in Liverpool driving was poorer than elsewhere in the UK rather than in response to the comment about current research on the road behaviour of those driving ‘prestige cars’.
    Though generally all of your examples rather prove my point that drivers of these kind of vehicles drive in an antisocial manner rather undermining the previous posts that I was some kind of out there wild eyed hate-monger spewing unwarrented predijuce on flash car drivers.

    As I said I would be interested to know if our driving is worse and if so why. My personal observation is that it is, but if no one else is seeing then maybe I’m being unlucky. Though I do see the aftermath of a collision caused by red light jumping on, I reckon, once a month here and in 20+ years of driving I’ve never seen it anywhere else in the UK. Now obviously it happens and obviously I drive more here than elsewhere but its something thats concerning me. You may or may not wish as journalists to pick it up, your call.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com Robin Brown

    Look, my point is that you can fashion an argument that shows any kind of driver, any kind of manufacturer or any region to be the worst drivers on the road. As a result none of those quotes I gave above prove your point nor disprove it – all they’re showing is that trying to label drivers by their income, what sort of car they drive or where they live is fairly futile.

    I’m willing to bet that I could find an article that shows people in Liverpool to be worse drivers than anywhere else – and one that finds the opposite. Neither would be worthy of much attention. As such I don’t think there’s much mileage in it.