Foreign car concessionaires

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In this last part of our series on concessionaires of foreign cars we deal with American and German Ford, B.M.W. and Renault, bringing the number of concerns dealt with in this four-part series to eighteen. We approached twenty-five importers of foreign cars, leaving seven who are not represented in this series. The concessionaires for D.A.F. and Facel Vega and American General Motors products felt that their operations were in such a small way as not to be worthy of inclusion, while the P.R.O. for Panhard and Citroen told us he was “not interested.” The concessionaires for Goggomobil, Lancia, Chrysler, Rambler and Studebaker did not answer our letters. You may feel, with us, they are not worthy of consideration.

FORD (American and German)

Lincoln Cars Ltd., Great West Road, Brentford, Middlesex.

Lincoln Cars Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ford Motor Co. Ltd., was formed in 1936 for the purpose of handling all Ford products other than those made by the British Ford Company at Dagenham. From 1936 to 1939 the Company imported American and Canadian-built Ford products and during the war, until 1945, the premises were put to use making Bren gun carriers. From 1945 to 1954 the works were mainly engaged in overhauling engines for army trucks but by 1954 they were once again fully engaged in importing the full range of American and Canadian Ford cars. In 1959, the Company also took over responsibility for importing the products of the German Ford factory.

The manager since 5956 has been R. A. Scruton who has previously seen service with Ford of Malaya and Ford of Canada. Sales Manager is John Sargent, Service Manager F. Brockwell, Parts Manager S. Jones and Industrial Department Manager N. Fawkes.

It is even more difficult to estimate the number of cars in this country handled by Lincoln Cars than for other makes because of the large variety of makes and models and the constantly shifting population of American servicemen who form the biggest market for American Ford products. However, an approximate figure would be around 3,000 to 4,000 for American-made cars with a further 2,000 German Ford Taunus models having been sold since 1959.

There is a vast range of cars produced by Ford of America and Canada sold under the marque names of Ford, Mercury and Lincoln. From Ford of Canada comes the compact Ford Falcon and Mercury Comet, which sell for under £1,300 in Britain, and the larger Ford Fairlane and Galaxie and Mercury Meteor and Monterey. From Ford of America come the luxury Thunderbird and the Lincoln Continental which is only imported to special order. Right-hand drive is only provided on the cars made in the Canadian factory, the bulk of cars coming from Canada because of the lower duty which Canadian products enjoy. The Galaxie 500 is the hest seller in Britain. At present only the Taunus 17M models are imported from Germany but the new 12M (the Cardinal) is scheduled for right-hand drive during 1963 and should be on sale here next summer, probably selling for around £800.

Lincoln Cars are also responsible for the sale of industrial engines made by Ford at Dagenham. This includes marine and general industrial units and passenger car engines sold to other manufacturers such as kit car builders and formula junior car manufacturers. Also supplied are special engines without cylinder heads for conversion to the Lotus twin-overhead-camshaft head. Marine engines are also imported from America, the V8 Dearborn Interceptor being most popular. This engine powered the Blue Moppie which took part in the recent Daily Express power boat race. Lincoln Cars also distribute disability controls over Southern England and have responsibility for preparing and maintaining cars loaned to the Press. The premises also house the Ford competitions department which prepares all rally entries. Owing to the growing competitions activities of Ford this department will soon be moving to newer and larger premises. At the time of our visit three Ford Falcons were being checked over prior to setting out on a reconnaissance for the Monte Carlo Rally.

All cars are sent over from America or Canada completely assembled and are shipped by normal cargo lines, the Canadian cars coming to Avonmouth and the Americans to Southampton. Lincoln Cars employees are then taken to the docks, the cars are checked over on the spot and then driven to London by road, this procedure giving plenty of time to note any defects in running. On arrival at Brentford the cars are de-waxed and given a further comprehensive pre-delivery check. Taunus models from Germany are normally shipped to London Docks and then driven to Brentford but competitive air freight charges may well cause Lincoln Cars to swing over to air freight, and indeed some cars are already imported by Silver City Airways.

On the dealer side, some 80 dealers retail the German Ford models and 25 dealers cover U.S. and Canadian Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. The bulk of business with the American cars is done with American servicemen, who sometimes buy the car in England at special rates, use it for their term of service in this country then take the car back to the U.S. Each serviceman is allowed to take one car back to America free of charge during each tour of duty. Alternatively they may sell the car to another serviceman in England but not to a British citizen. Another scheme which is operated by Lincoln Cars is to take a demonstration fleet of cars to American bases where a serviceman can choose a new car which will be delivered to the airport where he lands on his return home to the U.S. The car is paid for in England, the Treasury gaining some useful dollars, while Lincoln Cars make a small profit without ever seeing the car! This facility is only available to American manufacturers as a recent economy campaign amongst American servicemen has been aimed at discouraging them from buying foreign cars.

At Brentford some 25,000 sq. ft. of floor space is given over to new car preparation and maintenance and overhaul work on American and German cars. Mechanics, who have been trained in the U.S. and Germany are available and training is given to dealers’ mechanics. A special station wagon fitted out with all the necessary equipment tours the dealers giving training to mechanics from dealers who cannot send them to Brentford. About 120 people are employed at Lincoln Cars.

Spare parts worth approximately £100,000 are kept in stock at Brentford but with a relatively low volume of sales of American cars and the vast number of models which have major changes every year it is almost an impossibility to stock a complete range of spares for all models. However, spares which are urgently required can be obtained within 24 hours by air freight.

All models are considered suitable for sale in Britain but those with left-hand drive are not so popular as those with right-hand drive for obvious reasons and the very expensive Lincoln Continental is not stocked, only brought in when an order is received. The Thunderbird, although expensive, is stocked as there is a fairly good demand for it. It should he remembered that even with recent tax cut American cars still cost nearly twice as much in England as they do in America. No British parts are used on the cars although some of the extras such as radio are British made, mainly because of servicing problems with certain foreign parts.

American-made cars will hardly benefit from Britain’s entry into the European Common Market but the Taunus should expect greatly increased sales. Lincoln Cars have made plans to cope with the expected expansion and these will go into action as soon as Britain’s decision is made.

(Note : The badge at the head of this article is that of the German Ford factory.)

B.M.W.

B.M.W. Concessionaires England Ltd., New England Street, Brighton 1, Sussex,

The Company is not part of the B.M.W. concern and is wholly financed with British capital. The English company import B.M.W. motorcycles, the 1setta bubble car, which is now largely made at Brighton and a selection of the B.M.W. car range. The Managing Director. is R. J. Ashley and Service Manager J. Gray.

It is estimated that there are around 300 B.M.W.s in the country at the moment but as the present concessionaires have only been importing the B.M.W. 700 model for just over a year they expect to sell some 600 cars this year. Of the B.M.W. 700 range only the 700 Coupe and LS models are imported together with the new 1500 model which will shortly be on sale in this country. The fact that the saloon is not imported into Britain is due to the heavy pressure on the factory in Munich in building the lefthand drive models.

The cars, which use no British parts, are railed from Munich to Amsterdam and then shipped from Amsterdam to Shoreham harbour in Sussex, from where they are driven to nearby Brighton. The cars are fully wax protected for the journey and on arrival this is removed and a pre-delivery check and road test is made.

Some 35 people are employed by the British Concessionaires on sales and service work and a network of 41 dealers and distributors has been appointed. The concessionaires will supply a fully trained mechanic: to each dealer or the dealer can send his staff to Brighton for training.

A complete stock of spare parts for all B.M.W. models is maintained at Brighton for both right-hand and left-hand drive models.

Managing Director Captain Ashley considers that the prospects for B.M.W. in England are excellent should Britain join the European Common Market.

RENAULT

Renault Ltd., Western Avenue, Acton, London, W.3.

One of the longer established of the Continental car manufacturers in this country, Renault began exporting cars to Britain in 1902 under the name of the Roadway Autocar Co. The name was changed to Renault Freres Ltd. in 1903 and to Renault Ltd. in 1905. For many years the smaller Renaults were assembled in this country but in recent years this practice has been discontinued and fully assembled cars are brought into the country.

The Managing Director is J. Ordner, Sales Manager J. B. Allerton, Service Manager J. H. Chambers, Publicity Manager A. Dakers.

Renault estimate that there are 65,000 Renaults in Britain at the moment but did not divulge their current yearly import figures. The majority of Renaults are brought by sea to Southampton but the remainder are flown from Le Touquet to Lydd by Silver City Airways. On arrival in England the only work required is de-waxing and the fitting of windscreen-wiper arms and hub caps. All Renault models are considered suitable for sale in this country. Some British parts are fitted to Renault models and the quantity varies with the model, but generally the number of British parts fitted is small and limited to certain proprietary components. All of these are fitted at the Renault factory.

Renaults have approximately 650 sales and service points in this country (although they claimed 750 at the time of our Readers’ Car Survey!), a third of which deal exclusively in Renault. These are required to hold certain minimum stocks of spares and tools. Sales and service schools are held at the Acton headquarters and a mobile service training van tours dealers giving instruction to mechanics.

Spares are held in stock at Acton for all models back to the 4 C.V. which was introduced in 1949. Any parts which are not in stock can be obtained within 24 hours from Billancourt. All spares are flown over from France. In Britain, Renault operate a spares delivery service which delivers routine spares aswell as special orders.

Renault feel that their prospects in this country are excellent whether we join the Common Market or not.

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