Be prepared

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Just about the time when politicians of both parties were doing their brinksmanship with the Common Market we received from Commonwealth House a news-item which said that, although Australia’s export motor industry only got going in 1954, its products are now to be seen “on the roads of more than 70 countries and in every Continent”. Last year nearly 500,000 vehicles left Australia’s 50 plants and exports are expected to reach a value of £70 1/2-million by the mid-1970s. BL, Ford, GM and Chrysler have the main plants there but their vehicles, instead of being assembled from imported components, are built from practically 100% Australian-made parts.

These Australian-built cars now invade the European and Home markets. We have never ourselves driven a Holden, although we once very nearly got hold of one which Jack Brabham had been using here, and we cannot vouch for the quality of Australian cars. But it is significant that their export value has risen from £140,000 to £47,000,000 in 17 years. Australia claims the third highest car-owning density in the world, after the USA and Canada, which is not the same thing as a high traffic density. Its industry will undoubtedly look to exports to sustain and increase its output, when its own market is so close to saturation.

This is one invasion we should be prepared to face. Then Motor Market News warns us of where the Japanese probe into Europe and the UK is likely to lead. The Japs sent 9,752 cars worth £4.4-million to the UK between January and August this year, but the great motor-exporting UK replied with only 1,144 vehicles valued as £1.1-million. With the increasing financial and legislative restrictions being imposed on the sales of Japanese cars by America the formidable, ruthless and vigorous Japs will no doubt turn to Britain as a receptacle for their ever-improving products.

We have never rushed to assist the Japs to publicise their cars, as some papers do. But in 1967 we looked at what arrangements were being made to import them, as a matter of general motoring interest and something our own manufacturers should be aware of. What did we discover? That Honda had a very impressive set-up in Power Road, Chiswick, on the outskirts of London, a subsidiary of the parent company in Tokyo, but that Mazda was hidden away in a big insurance company building in Newbury, and had no cars for sale, while Toyota was operating from a converted shop on Brixton Hill. Datsun hadn’t even got here. Today, according to Motor Market News, the Japanese manufacturers have 342 distributors and dealers in Britain, without counting Honda. Datsun have 128 outlets offering 13 different models, Toyota 125 offering nine models, and Mazda 89 offering seven models. Rather an expansion in four years!

Motor Sport has reported on the tiny high-revving Honda S800 sports car, the horribly noisy Honda N360 baby car, the not entirely impressive Mazda 1500, the very impressive Wankel-powered Mazda 110S which proved to be a real sports car and certainly not the Sunday afternoon promenader that its origins and appearance led us to expect, the impressive o.h.c. all-independent Datsun 1600 and the noisy, bouncy but notably economical Toyota Corolla. All this was some time ago and better Japanese cars have appeared since. If we are offered any for test they will not be refused, because a motor journal should not necessarily be political and the opposition will not become less dangerous by ignoring it.

It is only necessary to think of how Japanese motorcycles have swamped the Home and World markets (ask BSA!), of how Japanese radios, televisions, cameras, binoculars, and so on have sold in the face of well-established products from other countries, and to weigh up Japanese achievements in motorcycle racing and the Datsun 240Z success in the E. African Safari, to see how determinedly the invasion of Japanese cars into Europe is likely to be conducted. We can only hope that Lord Stokes and other Captains of Industry, in whose hands the standard of living in this little piece of Europe for the next couple of decades or so rests, have, like good Boy Scouts, adopted the Baden-Powell motto of “Be Prepared”….

But will they be, remembering that many of these keen new Japanese dealers in Britain are small respected family concerns which, as victims of the UK manufacturers’ “rationalisation” policies or because they disliked the deal they were getting from these sources, opted out and went over to selling Japanese instead of UK products? It is alarmingly significant that these dealers are apparently quite satisfied about the quality of these Oriental motor cars and the prices at which they are listed here, even though these Japanese cars are subject to Import Duty and have to be shipped half-way round the World. We must clearly fight back, with all the vigour and determination at our command, and quickly.—W. B.