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