May I refer to your review of the ”East African Safari Rally” in our May, 1966,. edition, and in particular to your paragraph on the two Japanese Datsun cars which finished 5th and 6th. in this rally?
Firstly, you referred to the Japanese as an “infant” car industry “trying” to penetrate new markets. In terms of years the Japanese car industry may, in fact, be in the “infant” stage but their growth rate I feel sure far surpasses that of British and Continental car manufacturers. Far from “trying” to penetrate new markets, the Japanese car industry is making tremendous inroads into traditional English markets such as Australia and, in fact, I feel sure through aggressive salesmanship and meticulous attention to detail in design and finish, if we are not very careful, will capture our already diminishing share of these markets.
Your claim that the two Datsuns would not have stood up to the conditions had they been driven by top class European drivers, seems to reflect a state of mind which in the long run does more harm to the British motor industry than that which openly acknowledges the creditable performance by a competitor.
No amount of derision and innuendo that these cars were nursed by local drivers can hide the fact that, apart from Ford, they were the only car manufacturer who had more than one finisher; in fact we were given no details of the total number of British cars entered. This is all the more creditable when one compares the respective cost of say the Mercedes and Peugeot. I am not, in fact, aware of the cost of the Datsun in Kenya, but it would be of great interest to compare the performance of a relatively priced British car under similar conditions.
It is surely time that the majority of British motoring correspondents stopped decrying foreign successes and attribute the overseas manufacturers (in this case Datsun) some ability to produce a vehicle capable of coping with the arduous conditions found in East Africa. It may be possible for journalists to brainwash the majority of the British public into thinking that they, in buying British cars, are buying the best in the world, but in markets which are open to foreign competitors without crippling import duties the public tends to purchase vehicles which offer the best value for money. Under these circumstances with the practical proof before them it is of no advantage to British manufacturers for journalists to decry the performance of our competitors. No amount of propaganda of this kind will produce better British cars.
Haslington. E.S. Foden and M.J. Foster.
[You cannot please all the readers all the time! When we praised the Volkswagen ten years ago we were accused of doing harm to the British motor industry. We have not yet described or road-tested Japanese cars (we shall probably succumb in time) but are told this is brainwashing the British public into buying British! The simple fact is that Japan is closing in on us as Germany did a decade ago and if we do not buy British, build British cars capable of combatting the Japanese invasion, and consolidate our links with Europe against the rest of the world our children will eat margarine instead of butter and their children will be eating dry crusts. However, Motor Sport is not a political journal and the Datsun performance in the E. African Safari Rally must be rated as highly creditable; our rally reporter expressed the opinion that had these cars been driven harder they might not have stayed the course. But I agree our correspondent underrated the Japanese motor industry in calling it an infant— it is the fourth largest in the world in terms of total vehicle output, exceeded only by the U.S.A., Germany and Britain, its 1964 production being 1,782,000 units although only about 600,000 were private cars. Incidentally, I will take this opportunity of correcting the erroneous impression in “Matters of Moment” last month that Ford took the Team Prize with two Cortina GTs and a normal Cortina. Subsequent information made it clear that the third string to Dagenham’s bow was a Lotus-Cortina, proof that this high performance twin-cans Ford is now as reliable and rugged as the push-rod Cortina models.—Ed.]