Over to the Accountants....

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We do not profess to be experts on the matter of the prevailing profits made on the sale of cars by the motor manufacturers and their agents. But one does wonder how long it will be before the Fiat Company makes any profit on the Uno, the development of which is said to have cost the equivalent of £360,000,000, in spite of the fact that Fiat already had vast small-car techniques to pool, even claiming to have had a revolutionary front-drive economy car in being before Sir Alec Issigonis had brought out such transversity, in the guise of the immortal Mini Minor. This seems an enormous sum, compared, for instance, to the £19,000,000 Volkswagen have invested in the new Wolfsburg Research Centre which has to develop a whole range of their new models and do general research work in addition. But then we have never understood the vast expenditures of money the Motor Industry makes so easily. We seem to remember some years ago Ford spending a cool £l million putting synchromesh on the bottom gear in the Cortina, presumably to help aged mums and other timid drivers pull caravans up the steepest gradients without stalling because they couldn’t engage the lowest gear while on the move. Even though this sum presumably included the cost of producing the additional parts and their installation on the production-lines, it seemed a lot of cash-flow for a simple addition, but one which the sheer and well-deserved success of the Cortina obviously merited. However, one couldn’t help wondering if the small engineering workshops around the country wouldn’t have welcomed the chance of doing this synchromesh job for less. . . . While on the subject of the Fiat Uno some additional comments to those made in last month’s road-test report may be opportune, remembering that some people regard this as the “Car of the Year”. Some of the little Fiat’s livelilness stems, one supposes, from its low drag coefficient of 0.33, while the hot-running engine must help, the water temperature of which exceeded 95-deg C under decidedly wintry conditions, as shown on the only minor dial apart from the steady-indicating fuel gauge. By the way, metallic paint for the Uno costs £51.81 extra. The engine needs use of the manual choke to make it fire up on cold mornings. Fiat claim to have sold 325,000 Unos by the end of last year, less than a year’s production. Even with 2,100 a day rolling from the production lines at Rivalta and Mirafiori in 900, 1100, 1300 and diesel-engined form, with three and five door bodies, I find it hard, as I have said, to understand when a profit will be made.

On the subject of Italian cars, Alfa Romeo, who incidentally also claim to have had an experimental transverse-engined FWD small car in being five years before the BMC Mini Minor, have at last put fuel-injection on the vee-six engine of their top model Alfa 6, robbing it of the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only production car to have a carburetter for each cylinder, but, one hopes, giving future users of this comfortable, safe-handling and unique motor-car better fuel consumption than the average of 19.13 mpg we have been getting from our carburetted version. W.B.