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May 30, 2008

THE WEEK THAT WAS: It’s not what you know, but who…

Knowing the right people sure helps when you've a new car to promote.

Knowing the right people sure helps when you’ve a new car to promote.

And, if you’re the never publicity-shy Carlos Ghosn, rarely out of the just-auto news pages, that means leveraging 25 years of Cannes Film Festival sponsorship to sneak your gorgeous new, er, Laguna Coupe in under the velvet ropes, ensuring some excellent publicity. It certainly is a nice-looking car; the French are particularly good at these as Peugeot has also demonstrated over the years.

To top it off, M Ghosn then managed to swing things with the organisers of the F1 grand prix in neighbouring Monaco so the latest Laguna could do a few laps of the circuit, exposing it to thousands of potential buyers. You gotta be impressed…

If you’ve ever had the pleasure (?) of living under a Labour government (think Democrat in the US), and I’ve done so in two countries, you’ll be familiar with the old tax-and-spend routine.

But the UK’s present government – in power since ’97 – is fast learning that if you tax the working man and woman too much, one day they’ll bite back. And that’s what’s happening here. Motorists, bled dry in this country for far too long, have finally woken up they account for about 30m votes.

Result: revolt (especially by truckers) against 70% duty on every litre of fuel (with another 2p increase due in the autumn), revolt against planned swingeing ‘environmental’ increases in annual vehicle ‘road’ tax (only a fraction goes on our fractured highways and the hikes will reduce our CO2 output by less than 1%) and even revolt by British car workers who reckon their jobs will soon be taxed out of existence.

Our unelected (he simply succeeded Tony Blair as Labour leader), prime minister has so far refused to ‘go to the country’ so we’ll apparently have to wait until 2010 for the general election that is sure to put the car and private motorist-hating party, now with the lowest ‘approval’ rating of any since records began, back into the political wilderness where it belongs.

Now the American Axle strike is behind it, GM reportedly is eyeing more restructuring. There was a suggestion today truck and SUV inventory is still too high, despite some draw-down during the strike, and maybe some workers will move to making cars instead.

Speaking of GM, Chevrolet, albeit mostly with GM-Daewoo-built cars (though the HHR does make it across the pond, but not to the UK), is going very well here in Europe. Read how well in editor Dave Leggett’s report, fresh in from Poland.

Enjoy your weekend,

Graeme Roberts
Deputy Editor
just-auto.com

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