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Sir,

There is an increasing coverage and comment about the volume of foreign cars sold in this country and the sad effect that this has on our economy. The real point about this, to my mind, is that Britain is a free market for cars, we are a member of the EEC and we have the oppoetunity of exporting our cars. The history and great past of this country was based on trading, at which we were masters.

In civil engineering, agricultural and construction machinery we still maintain an enviable position and it is understood that there are many other fields of which we need not be ashamed of our exporting position. If we are able to sell successfully abroad, why is there a difference when it comes to competing on the home market? On a recent visit to France, it was very noticeable that the majority of French registered cars were of French manufacture and apart from an occasional Jaguar, Range Rover and one Rolls-Royce, no new French registered British cars were seen. As my son was employing himself by studying number plates during our three thousand mile journey, which took place during August when the French take to the road for their holidays, I feel sure that we didn’t miss very many. It was, incidentally, very pleasing to see a high proportion of JCB and Massey Ferguson hydraulic excavators on the construction sites.

Returning to the British car market, one can sympathise with our manufacturers and agents to a degree, and appreciate the production difficulties they experience, but why should a prospective customer give any thought to such things. Buying criteria are very variable but one must assume that full weight will be given to availability, reliability and spares availability. From the advertising campaigns and promotional work, it is possible to create a desire to own a particular make of car and one can cite BMW as an outstanding example of aggressive marketing, for they have risen within ten years from being relatively unknown to being included in virtually everyone’s short list of desirable cars. Had they not backed up the advertising with a good spares and service organisation together with availability and reliability, their customers would not now be on their second, third or fourth BMW. The same arguments apply to Datsun, Peugeot etc. and, in all fairness, there is a strong doubt as to it being applicable to British Leyland products.

If one buys a car brand new and from a manufacturer’s appointed agent, one is spending a lot of money, be it one’s own or a company’s. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect early delivery and to have a vehicle which will be reliable, comfortable and easily repaired. The difficulties experienced in the manufacture of it and its spare parts are of no interest to the customer who simply wants to get in and drive it and to know that he can expect interest and enthusiasm from the agent sufficient interest to ensure that the customer returns to the agent when he next changes his car.

Perhaps the present volume of foreign car sales into the UK are due to the lack of interest and enthusiasm shown throughout British Leyland. With the Range Rover, the Jaguar/Daimler range, the Land Rover and the Princess, there is a good range and the new ,Rovers complete a very attractive “Executive” threesome. Were they freely available and free from their after-sales troubles, perhaps the agents and their salesmen could compete with the foreigners on equal terms and with the enthusiasm with which their competitors greet even a self confessed “window shopper” who drives a company car and admits to not being “in the market” as soon as a salesman approaches.

There is no original way of repeating the “thanks for a wonderful magazine” ending which such a lot of your correspondents use so thanks anyway.

 Monk Bretton NEIL COTTAN

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