Up to speed on mo­tor as­sem­bly in Ire­land

The Irish Times - - Comment & Letters -

Sir, – I must take is­sue with John FitzGer­ald’s com­ments on car as­sem­bly in Ire­land (“Tim­ing key as Ire­land ad­justs to glob­al­i­sa­tion”, Busi­ness, Oc­to­ber 20th). It is not the case that “most cars . . . had been as­sem­bled in the UK, then taken to pieces and sent to Ire­land to be re­assem­bled”.

The as­sem­bly in­dus­try came about in the Free State at the end of 1933 when Sean Le­mass, the min­is­ter for in­dus­try and com­merce, re­sponded to a sug­ges­tion from FM Sum­mer­field to cre­ate a car as­sem­bly in­dus­try here that in re­turn for a tax con­ces­sion would also re­sult in the cre­ation of a net­work of com­po­nent sup­pli­ers to the newly cre­ated in­dus­try.

Cars were im­ported in CKD form – com­pletely knocked down – where the key com­po­nents were taken from the man­u­fac­tur­ing line and shipped to Ire­land for as­sem­bly. They were not built in the UK and then dis­as­sem­bled for ex­port to Ire­land.

As a re­sult of the Le­mass/Sum­mer­field ini­tia­tive, man­u­fac­tur­ing of tyres, bat­ter­ies, glass, springs, spark plugs, up­hol­stery, paint and other com­po­nents was car­ried out lo­cally.

It should be re­mem­bered that at the time as­sem­bly was in­tro­duced, the Free State had vir­tu­ally no light in­dus­try man­u­fac­tur­ing, yet within six months there were no fewer than 13 as­sem­bly plants in op­er­a­tion to­gether with the nec­es­sary com­po­nent sup­pli­ers.

In the years that fol­lowed be­fore lo­cal as­sem­bly came to an end in 1984 as a re­sult of our join­ing the Euro­pean Com­mu­nity, in the re­gion of 52 dif­fer­ent makes of cars had been as­sem­bled here.

Cars in CKD form came to Ire­land from Bri­tain, France, Italy, Ger­many, Poland, Cze­choslo­vakia, Ja­pan and the US.

It’s also worth not­ing that Aus­tralia fol­lowed Ire­land’s lead al­most word for word in 1936 in in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion to es­tab­lish its own mo­tor as­sem­bly in­dus­try.

At its peak in the late 1960s there were more than 3,500 peo­ple em­ployed in the Ir­ish Mo­tor As­sem­bly in­dus­try, not in­clud­ing be­tween 1,500 and 2,000 em­ployed by the com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers.

So, hardly a “in­cred­i­bly in­ef­fi­cient process”, rather an im­por­tant step­ping stone in Ire­land’s man­u­fac­tur­ing his­tory. Its full story will be told in my forth­com­ing book Mo­tor As­sem­bly in Ire­land. – Yours, etc, BOB MONT­GOMERY, Cu­ra­tor,

Royal Ir­ish Au­to­mo­bile Club Ar­chive, Daw­son Street, Dublin 2.

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