News that the French government has stepped in today (30 June) to ease the takeover of parts supplier Heuliez will no doubt come as a huge relief to the 481 employees, whose jobs appear to have been saved.

The deal will in contrast come as a blow to the 119 staff who seem likely to be made redundant, but it is ironic the French move comes exactly as the UK is firmly squashing any idea of direct financial intervention in its own auto industry.

New British business secretary Vince Cable - who made such soothing overtures to the UK auto sector at the launch of Toyota's new Auris hybrid this week - has rather toughened up his stance since hinting the auto industry would have to stand on its own two feet.

The contrast with Cable's cross-channel colleagues is stark. The EUR10m (US$12.2m) France's industry ministry is prepared to make available to Heuliez may seem small - and is clearly a drop in the ocean compared to the sector as a whole - but it is indicative of how vital the French government views the car business.

Stark warnings appeared today in the UK, citing how more than a million jobs could be lost in the public sector by 2015 as a result of draconian public sector cuts and France is facing similar challenges.

But as the vice president automobile of union CFE-CGC told just-auto today, the French car sector has also haemorrhaged jobs in the recent past.

Almost 100,000 French auto posts have disappeared since 2008 according to CFE-CGC as the recession hit manufacturers and sub-contractors, with the union estimating "there are still 50,000-60-000 at risk."

So although industry minister Christian Estrosi's announcement of the EUR10m loan to the consortium taking over Heuliez may not sound huge, it is a strong statement of how France intends to move.

Being France of course, the loans issue is firmly embedded in a maelstrom of intrigue and counter-claims, with the minister hinting darkly today at "those" making political statements and "false announcements."

It is unclear exactly to whom he is referring although the French press is rife with speculation as to the cast list.

There appear to be no such discussions on the British side of the channel. It seems as if the UK car industry will have to be largely self-funding with only vague concepts of "stable business" and "supportive tax" environments emanating from the business secretary.

Cable - from the Liberal Democrat wing of the coalition - is fast emerging as something of a hawk when it comes to doling out sweeteners to the UK auto sector.

His stance is clear contrast to his colleagues in Paris, but Cable has the sure advantage of a mandate whose ink is still fresh on the paper.

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