Dulux dog

Up to the wire

We take a look back at the key developments that impacted on global and UK Dulux paint maker Imperial Chemical Industries is formally sold to its new Dutch owner Akzo Nobel for £8bn, marking the end of an era for an icon of British industry. ICI, which also delists from the London Stock Exchange, employs around 3,500 staff in the UK and 26,000 worldwide.

An Indian auto maker unveils the world's cheapest car, leading the drive by major car manufacturers to develop small, cheap vehicles. The Nano car will retail at about £1,200 (100,000 rupees) and is targeted at the Indian market. Its maker, Tata Motors, says it expects annual demand for the car to reach one million.

Manufacturing firms are well placed to weather potential economic storms this year, says an engineering employers' group. The EEF says the sector continues to enjoy a 'renaissance' and there are signs that 2007 will prove to be its best year in a decade.

Airbus completes the world's first commercial-aircraft flight using a liquid fuel processed from gas. An A380 flies from the UK manufacturing centre at Filton, UK, to Airbus's headquarters in Toulouse, France, as the first stage of a programme to look at the feasibility of using synthetic fuel blended with standard jet fuel to power engines.

Japanese auto group Nissan says it will add a third production shift at its UK factory in Sunderland in response to demand for its new Qashqai model, creating 800 temporary and full-time jobs. Meanwhile, rival group Honda says it will invest £80m to upgrade its UK plant in Swindon. But, in Germany, car giant BMW says most of its planned 8,000 job cuts will fall in its home country.

The world's biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380 superjumbo, flies from Singapore to London's Heathrow airport on its first commercial flight to Europe. Singapore Airlines and manufacturer Airbus say the aircraft is the quietest and greenest big plane.

Aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce cuts the ground of a planned new plant in Singapore, which will be the group's first engine assembly and test facility outside the UK. They will also be the first in Asia to make large engines for civil aircraft.

US plane maker Boeing tests the first manned flight using hydrogen power, in a further move by the industry to develop green aviation fuel. A hydrogen fuel cell is used in conjunction with a lithium-ion battery to power an electric motor driving a two-seater Dimona motor-glider which takes off from an airfield in Spain.

Thousands of manufacturing jobs in Britain will be lost because of the worsening economic outlook, according to a report from business lobby group the CBI. Separately, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply says a three-year run of expansion in UK manufacturing production has come to an end following further falls in new orders.

Defence giant BAE Systems calls for a full review of the controversially abandoned Serious Fraud Office inquiry into its arms deal with Saudi Arabia, saying this would show there was no chance of bringing a successful prosecution. The SFO halted its investigation of corruption claims surrounding the £43bn Al Yamamah contract in December 2006.

The UK government says it will invest £23m in the development of green technologies for vehicles, in cooperation with a number of companies. Sixteen 'low-carbon vehicle development projects' are being targeted with funds from the government's Technology Strategy Board and a further £52m of investment from industry.

Indian group Tata Motors, maker of the Nano car, buys the iconic UK car marques Jaguar and Land Rover from American giant Ford, in a £1.7bn deal. Tata later installs a Brit, David Smith, as chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, which employs about 16,000 staff in the UK.

Japanese car group Honda begins the first commercial production of a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle. The FCX Clarity rolls off an assembly line in Japan, Honda's first to be dedicated to building fuel-cell vehicles. The car will be sold in the US and Japan.

German industrial giant Siemens says it wants to cut 4 per cent of its workforce, or 17,000 posts, as part of an overhaul and as a result of the global economic downturn.

More than 500 jobs are to be axed at UK digger group JCB as the firm seeks to cut costs after a 'rapid decline' in business, it announces. All of JCB's UK factories will be affected by the job losses, reducing staff at eight plants in Staffordshire, two in Wrexham and one in Derbyshire.

Major auto makers pledge a greener future for cars as they wheel out a range of hybrid and electric vehicles at the 2008 British International Motor Show in London. At the show, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says his government is looking at ways of creating incentives for greener driving.

Smaller businesses in the UK say they hold the British government hugely responsible for the impact of the credit crunch. A survey of its members by the Federation of Small Businesses finds that 90 per cent blame the government for the economic downturn, while 85 per cent blame the banks and 73 per cent the world economy. A massive 98 per cent say they expect the credit crunch to adversely affect them.

The first set of five new vocational diplomas, including one in engineering, are introduced into UK schools for 14- to 19-year-olds. The go-ahead is also given for a second tranche of diplomas to be offered in September 2009, including one covering manufacturing and product design.

A UK campaign to promote manufacturing and a boost to industry apprenticeships are among a raft of new measures unveiled by the government, which says it will spend £150m to support UK manufacturing. A new body, 'Manufacturing Insight', will be set up to improve the public's perception of manufacturing, and there will be a 'Manufacturing the Future' schools campaign to promote manufacturing career prospects to young people. The number of manufacturing apprenticeships across Britain will be increased by 1,500 to a total of 9,000, and there will be a new manufacturing technology centre built in Coventry. 

MG cars leave the historic Longbridge plant in Birmingham, UK, for the first time since 2005, when the former MG Rover company collapsed with the loss of 6,000 jobs. Longbridge's new Chinese owner, Shanghai Automotive, says it hopes to make 700 of the new MGTF LE500 models there by the end of the year.

Aerospace group Airbus sells its UK plant at Filton to engineering group GKN for £136m. The plant will continue to make aircraft wing components for Airbus, which also opens a new factory in China, its first final assembly line outside Europe.

Production of the Mini is to be cut back in the wake of the economic slowdown. UK plants owned by Japanese auto groups Honda and Nissan are also cutting production.

Jaguar Land Rover, now owned by Tata Motors, says around 600 voluntary redundancies are to be offered, after the offer of more than 200 redundancies was oversubscribed. Motor industry leaders predict that UK annual sales in 2009 will dip below the two million mark for the first time since 1995. Others announcing cutbacks in Europe include Peugeot Citroen, Chrysler and Daimler.

Smaller manufacturers in Britain are cutting staff for the first time in 18 months as demand for goods at home and abroad weakens in the global economic slowdown, a CBI survey reveals.

The government unveils a voluntary scheme for manufacturers who want to measure the carbon footprint of their products. The 'PAS 2050' framework offers guidelines on measuring greenhouse gas associated with most of a product's lifecycle, from design and production through to consumer usage and disposal.

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