Economic wellbeing – it’s all about cars.


When it comes to new car sales McKinsey reports that the “global automotive industry is in better shape than it was five years ago”. It seems that the US has made a remarkable recovery, as has the United Kingdom, particularly if you hear president Obama’s State of the Union Address, which was broadcast on 20th January 2015.

New UK car sales hit a 10-year high in 2014, boosted by confidence in the economic recovery, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said. In total, 2.47 million new cars were registered last year, up 9% on 2013 and the best annual performance since 2004.Sales rose each month last year, with December’s rise representing the 34th consecutive monthly jump.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its forecast for global economic growth for this year and next. The IMF now expects growth of 3.5% this year, compared with the previous estimate of 3.8% which it made in October 2014.

There are challenges being faced by the various member states of the Eurozone. While the Eurozone did continue to grow, it failed to gain momentum. Now there are some concerns that even Germany may have been afflicted by the Eurozone economic malaise. Certainly, Europe’s traditional powerhouse suffered a setback with economic activity falling back in the second quarter of 2014.

As if to underline the Euro crisis on 15th January 2015 The Swiss National Bank shocked the world when it announced it would remove the cap it had in place to prevent the Swiss franc from rising too high against the euro, and the bank gave the following explanation:-

“The minimum exchange rate was introduced during a period of exceptional overvaluation of the Swiss franc and an extremely high level of uncertainty on the financial markets. This exceptional and temporary measure protected the Swiss economy from serious harm. While the Swiss franc is still high, the overvaluation has decreased as a whole since the introduction of the minimum exchange rate. The economy was able to take advantage of this phase to adjust to the new situation. Recently, divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have increased significantly – a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced. The euro has depreciated considerably against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar. In these circumstances, the SNB concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified.”

Growth in China has slowed, as reported in the following extract of commentary from Reuters:- China’s economy grew at its slowest pace in 24 years in 2014 as property prices cooled and companies and local governments struggled under heavy debt burdens, keeping pressure on Beijing to take aggressive steps to avoid a sharper downturn. The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.4 per cent in 2014, official data showed on Tuesday, barely missing its official 7.5 per cent target but still the slowest since 1990, when it was hit by sanctions in the wake of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It expanded 7.7 per cent in 2013.

While new car sales are a barometer of a nation’s economic situation, vintage motors are all about an individual’s wellbeing. Driving an Aston Martin DB5 or Jaguar Roadster can make you feel every inch the motoring maestro. This is my Alvis Speed 20. Even thinking about it makes me smile. And to drive? It’s different!