Compromise Redux – The Generous Generalissimo

And finally, another tale of compromise, recounted by M. Seidler.

A German registered Taunus, quite some time ago. Source: Kölnische Rundschau

Once work on the Almusafes plant was underway, Ford negotiated with the Spanish tax authorities to import some cars for use by their staff and management.  Presumably the notion of using Chrysler 180’s or Seat 132’s would be too much to countenance. The sticking point was a rigidly enforced annual limit of 250 imported cars for the entire country.

Such was Ford’s economic leverage – they were investing $700 million and creating 9000 jobs – that they were given dispensation to import 25 Taunuses and Granadas, but were not excused the mandatory 126% car import tax. Later a deal was struck on temporary importation for a further 150 cars, which despite carrying German registrations, were taxed at 25% of their value per annum for a four year period and then repatriated. It’s a reminder that “Autarky means Autarky”; Spain truly was a closed market, and largely remained so until its accession to the European Community in 1986.

Let’s not forget that at the outset of the Bobcat Project, Ford were negotiating with a totalitarian Fascist dictatorship. By the Generalissimo’s good grace in departing this world in November 1975, the Spanish Fiesta arrived the following year as the product of an optimistic, energetic, proud, and above all, democratic constitutional monarchy.

Move on forty years, and free trade and protectionism are the talk of the planet.

Spain is the Europe’s second largest car manufacturer, by a sizeable margin, and eighth in the world. It also has a formidable component industry. I have an uneasy suspicion that the success had its foundation when Franco’s government “put Spain first” and legislated into being a protected car industry, autonomous in almost everything but the designs and engineering of its products. A fast growing economy underpinned the industry’s prosperity and growth.

For pre-European Community Spain, selective industrial autarky worked in its time, but free trade has served them better. “A bit political”, I know, but do we really want to return to the days of closed markets?

13 thoughts on “Compromise Redux – The Generous Generalissimo”

    1. Yes, I’m possibly letting my personal state of mind at the time get in the way. It was an interesting time. If you are going, I might have a small and predictable list of people you might like to visit and dissuade in some way and another from their future courses in life.

  1. ” “A bit political”, I know, but do we really want to return to the days of closed markets? ”

    Well there are many grades of protectionism – from mild-anti dumping measures to complete autarky. It’s not all black or all white. As for Spain being “Europe’s second largest car manufacturer”, that doesn’t mean much if all they have is assmbly plants, none of which under Spanish control.

    1. Some would argue that the plants don’t need to be under Spanish control. Britain’s British controlled car industry showed that national control meant little. Where is Humber today?
      I am being nostalgiac and also recognise that for many 1979 was horrible. The current mood is not great either. Every epoch is bad in its own way. I happen to know (I think) how 1979 was and would like to holiday there for about four years. I could drive a brand new Trevi around Cologne and enjoy the fashions and cheap food.

  2. Bearing in mind the difference in our ages, I also once had a similar ‘nostalgia’ for 1950s Britain. I wanted to drive around in a Sunbeam Talbot convertible and be John Mills, or maybe Jack Hawkins. Again, it’s because it seemed that, as you say, less stuff got in the way back then. But of course the interest would have been viewing the 50s through my more modern eyes. Had I actually been an adult in the 50s, I’m sure it would have felt stultifying.

    1. It goes without saying (which means it doesn’t, obviously) that I’d like to back to 1979 with my 2017 eyes. That’s the time-traveller premise. What I am not saying is that I’d like to unselfconsciously go back – I’d get nothing out of the experience which was happened when I really was living in 1979. It is a curious thing to try to imagine what today would look like if a person from 2037 came back. What would be strange? What would they like?

  3. Coming back from 2037 a visitor would be struck by the “freedom of the road”. Amazed that you could drive your car yourself anywhere, anytime. Speed limits that were in a way voluntary in that you could choose to ignore them and take the consequences and car styling that was indescribably overwrought.

    I remember my 1979 cars as spending a lot more time being serviced, repaired and refueled, despite them being simpler. As for the 1950’s, well the bit I recall was remarkably dull; Jack Hawkins over John Mills every time. However there was optimism for the future.

  4. When I set foot in Cologne for the first time in September 2015, I thought that I HAD stepped back into 1979.

    1. That´s great. When I went back the last time it seemed pretty much the same apart from some crummy new lumps built on the Rhine, south of the centre.

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