Early this year, I spent a week touring car factories in England. For those of us who are fans of British cars, these are interesting days.
According to Britain's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, auto exports have climbed from a low of about 250,000 in 1984 to more than 1.2 million last year.
Visit the Aston Martin plant in Gaydon, Warwickshire, and you will see a production line that is humming with DB9 sports cars. The new small $90,000 V8 Vantage has expanded the Aston Martin lineup to three models. The company plans to build a record 5,000 cars this year. And for the first time in decades, Aston is turning a profit.
Over at the Bentley plant in Crewe, it's the same story. The stunning Continental GT has a worldwide waiting list. A new Continental GT-based sedan, the Continental Flying Spur, is just arriving at dealerships, pushing annual Bentley production to around 6,000 units -- another all-time high.
In Oxford, BMW officials have announced a plant expansion that will boost production of the Mini to 250,000 to 300,000 a year, up from 189,000 in 2004. The next generation of the Mini is due in about a year
Then there is MG Rover Group, which skidded into bankruptcy April 7 after 30 years of decline under British ownership. Rover is roadkill. But the MG nameplate looks like it will survive. The company's new owner, China's Nanjing Automobile Group Corp., has pledged to resume production on a limited basis in England and is considering resurrecting the Austin brand for a series of entry-level cars.