History lessons: Look under the bonnet

American John De Lorean launched his car company in 1979, with £84m of British taxpayers' money. The government said it would create 2,500 jobs at a new Belfast factory, rolling out the DMC-12, the stainless-steel, gull-winged sports car immortalised as Michael J Fox's time machine in Back to the Future. Production began in 1981. Twelve months later, it hit the skids, with just 8,500 cars made - at a cost to the taxpayer of £9,000 per vehicle. Building a complicated new model in a city with no car-making history was foolish, and the car was a lemon. De Lorean was only in it for the handout. He'd charmed cash out of everyone from Sammy Davis Jnr to Johnny Carson. Even Maggie Thatcher was taken in, perhaps by his surgically enhanced movie-star chin. De Lorean spent the rest of his life fighting lawsuits, declared himself bankrupt in 1999, and died in 2005 still wanted for fraud. The lesson: mind who you partner. Check that there's a strong product under the bonnet. And beware silicon chins.

by John de Lorean

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