While much criticism of Sir Michael Edwardes was appearing in The Times for handling of British Leyland, a small number of motoring writers made a visit to Britain’s second largest car-producing plant, Reliant at Tamworth, Staffs., to hear how the new Board of this Company sees the future. They came by train (apart from the writer, who drove from Wales in a Wankel-engined Mazda) all except Alfred Woolf, and PR consultant, who missed his connection. It seemed odd, however, to meet Alfred in Tamworth instead of in sunny Turin. . . .
In his absence, the new MD Ritchie Spenser addressed us, talking quite frankly about Reliant’s recent set-backs. From 1974 to 1976 was a very bad period, when to keep faith with their 2,000 workers, the company borrowed £4-million in order to keep going. However, in spite of the Robin 3-wheeler recall for defective steering, which cost them £½-million, Reliant claims ow to have a full order-book, a turnover for more than £22-million, a confident network, a staunch work-force, and it converted a loss of £150,000 last year into a profit of £250,000, as well as repaying the £4-million loan. It has an Engineering Staff numbering 212, believing this to be essential for progressive improvement of its products, of which 30% are outside the car industry. From poor cars in 1977, it sees the future of specialised models as secure, and will introduce a new version of the Scimitar next month.
Reliant has the ability to turn resin and glass-matt into car bodies, as we saw later, which must have been a happy situation during the steel strike! It has, indeed, about the best glass fibre production plant in the country, and the ten-coat paint finish on the Robin is truly high-gloss. It has no interest in trying to increase production output but prefers to maintain Robin output (saloon-tricycles and vans) at about 6,000, Scimitar production at around 1,000, and supply Kitten-kits to Greece, for making into pick-ups, at the rate of about 1,000 a year, with a potential for 3,000. When dealers get the new Scimitar on February 25th it is expected that they will sell 350 a year, against 450 of the existing GRE model.
Scimitar and Robins are assembled in a new shop, the former on a U-shaped, hand-moved line, Robins on a mechanically-moving line. Each operative does more than one task, which obviates monotony. The bodies come from ex-foundry buildings at Kittlebrook and precede the chassis, until they are lifted up and lowered onto the completed chassis. Power-units come from the Shenstone plant. The Kitten is now made on a sort of dog-leg basis on the other side of the A5 at Two Gates, and it is regarded as too expensive to
compete directly with small-cars from big-output manufacturers. A pity, because many like this rustless little car, including one owner of our acquaintance who has improved its already-impressive petrol economy by 5 m.p.g., by fitting Boyer-Bransden transistor-ignition, at a cost of less than £14. The Company has supplied a new Anadol to Turkey and other countries since 1976, based on the Bertoni-designed prototype, but this simple car is not destined for the UK, although having a potential of 12,000 for the Turks in a good year.
J. F. Nash Securities Ltd. now have the majority shareholding in the Reliant Motor Company and look to the new Executive Board for a successful future. The MD, Mr. Spencer, admits that cars stored in the open do not mature like wine. But that, he says, is all lint eh past and, a man form the Ship-building Industry, who drives a Scimitar as well as a Jaguar, he expects the 184 Robin and 76 Scimitar dealers to have a good year in 1980. – W.B