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Professor Tom Donnelly

My research vision

My research focuses on the international automotive industry with particular reference to Western Europe and China. The main thrust of the research has been on merger activity; restructuring in the UK industry, the growth and development of the industry in China, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the industry, and the challenges posed by climate change and alternatively fuelled vehicles. I maintain a small interest in Finnish high tech industrial development. The inspiration for this research comes simply from my long-standing interest in the auto industry. All I really want to achieve is an improvement in our understanding of the industry through the application of economic theory. 


Professor Tom Donnelly profile photo.

Emeritus Professor of Automotive Business, Centre for Business in Society

Building: Jaguar


After graduating from the Universities of Strathclyde (BA Hons) and Aberdeen (Ph.D) Tom became a lecturer at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University). Over many years he taught economic history, economics and strategic management at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Tom became Head of the Department of Business and then of Management before becoming Head of Postgraduate Research Programmes in the Faculty of Business in addition to serving on many university committees. His research has focussed on a number of areas in economic history and economic development with a high concentration on the international automotive industry and he was later appointed Professor of Automotive Business. As part of his research, Tom was a founder member of the Centre for Local Economic Development (CLED), the Centre for  Business History (CBH) and the Motor Industry Observatory(MIO) with all three now forming part of CBiS. The MIO is consulted regularly by national and international media to comment on events in the car industry. Tom has also been a Visiting Professor at the Institut d’Administration des  Entreprises at the University of Caen, Oulu University of Applied Sciences in Finland, and the Silesian  University in the Czech Republic. Finally, he is an Associate Editor of the Dictionary of National Biography (OUP).

Selected outputs

Selected projects

  • Business Records in Coventry (1975-77): This centred on the identification/retrieval of business and industrial records in the Coventry region. The project was SSRC financed. 
  • Business Development in Aberdeen in the 18th century (1977): A study of economic and industrial growth with focus on the role of merchants in overseas trade. (SSRC funded)
  • Business Records in Coventry. (1982): A follow-up to project 1 (Manpower Services Commision (MSC) funded.
  • An Oral History of the Coventry car Industry (1983): Interviews with a large range of people associated with the csar industry. Tapes in university library. (MSC funded)  
  • Development of UK car Industry since (1945): Research in industrial development of car industry for subsequent book. (MSC funded) 
  • Management in the Car Industry: Study of key managers in growth and development of car industry in Coventry (MSC funded)
  • Rover Car company 2010/11: Study of trends in European car market for Chinese owners of MG Rover.
  • The prospects for alternative fuelled vehicles (AFV) in Coventry: Study into how well prepared the city is to take advantage of future changes in car transport technology  (Funded by Coventry city Council).
 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023