Value-for-Money of British Cars

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Sir,

Perhaps you will allow me a few more lines to defend my earlier suggestions ? To start with, may I make it quite clear that my criticisms are personal; friends have had very different experiences, but one can in all fairness only quote from ones own experiences.

The main point I was trying to make was as follows. I have admitted that the ADO15 design is basically excellent, but why does our motor industry have to wait until 1955 before it gives its design teams a chance to compete on level terms with all-comers and why, when they do eventually have a chance of competing, do irritating details seem more plentiful on their cars than on the continental machinery (viz. Mr. Venables)? We fondly imagine that we always lead the world in small cars, when the plain facts are that only in 1959—after, for example, the Volkswagen, Dauphine and Fiat 600 had accumulated a total of not less than 20 years selling time and nearly nine million vehicles combined—were we able to give the world a real small car competitor to hold its own against all-corners (with the possible exception of the Minor 1000). To attempt to excuse this lack of foresight and imagination would need a mighty biased champion.

The question of shoddiness—the letters from Messrs. Twynham and Baker confirm that this contention of mine is not an isolated ease. Can any English marque in the small car class (and even elsewhere within reason) match the Volkswagen finish at the price? If Mr. Dove doesn’t have to run-in his German “people’s car,” then why, Mr. Apps, should he have to have the pleasure of doing so with his English counterpart ? Or is this just a plain case of the Germans being one up again ? Flood conditions also are no hazard for the VW, why then must the Mini leak like a sieve ? I do agree most heartily with Mr. Apps that the gear whine on an ADO15 is inaudible at 60—the perishing fan is thrashing around so noisely that body boom, wheel patter and all other things that go boomp i’ th’ night are swamped!

But seriously, the crux of the matter is basic value for money (and this doesn’t just apply to the motor industry). I contend that only the 30% import duty gives the British Motor Industry any chance at all of competing in this country (except to the true blue John Bull type) in the small car class, with the possible exception of the ADO15. In export markets (where tariffs are equal), the coming years of increasing competition will reveal whether the ADO15 and others are superior under all and any conditions to the VW (and I am personally not very hopeful). As I have previously said, the Dauphine, for example, is sold over here with underseal, overriders, windscreen washers, boot and engine inspection lights and locks, thief-proof steering lock, child-proof rear door handles, twin sun-visors, pile carpets, two-tone horns, automatic choke, heater and demister unit—all as standard. Every one of these items is an extra on equivalent British cars. The difference of £170 odd (ADO15—de luxe at £534 and standard four-speed Dauphine at £700) is, I contend, not merely the difference of 30%, import duty on basic price (actually about £150 odd). And I don’t therefore think that the British public is getting a fair basic value for their money from the home manufacturers. Because the ADO15 is intrinsically a better car (if this statement could be accurately defined and I don’t necessarily agree with the premise) than say the Dauphine, I still don’t think it would be worth the difference in price when all the Dauphine’s standard parts (on which they pay 30% import duty at the present) are fitted to the ADO15 to deluxify it equally and the import tax is taken off the French car. Such a superiority would have to be very much more marked.

With regard to servicing, which I think will become increasingly more important, I only once was satisfied with B.M.C. service and many’s the time when my patience has been sorely tried. Never with any of the continental makes have I been kept waiting or has anyone treated me as if they were somehow doing me a favour or been discourteous (at least to my face!). Others may have found the exact opposite—I can speak only for myself.

Finally, I have used trade names to shorten this letter and I hope I have not been unduly harsh or laudatory about one make or other. I repeat that my contentions are based only on personal experience and my criticisms only therefore stand on this premise being accepted. Only by such criticism can a manufacturer appreciate how his product is received and how prospective purchasers will learn how their mounts may perform and last. Destructive criticism is the motorists’ right—constructive remedies the manufacturers’ design teams’ headache!

Come on Britain! Let’s have a real world beater before the now-old Volkswagen and Renault Dauphine models are superceded by models which will leave UK floundering again. We can do it. We must!

I am, Yours, etc., H.G. Mackenzie-Wintle. Willesden Green.

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