The 70-limit and British exports

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Sir,

How right you are in your March editorial. The British family car which is already an uninteresting vehicle is likely to become positively useless in foreign parts if the legal limit remains at 70 m.p.h. I live in Germany where there is no such limit. It was tried but then prematurely abandoned because the resultant doziness on the autobahns only increased the slaughter. Family cars produced over here are better than their British counterparts, not because of superior brains or technology but because the local user is allowed to thrash them without restriction. Herr Schmidt, in any one of his fleet of medium-sized cars made by Mercedes, Opel, Ford and B.M.W., expects to cover the 100-odd miles from Hanover to Hamburg, door to door, in under 90 minutes. Quite often he succeeds in his Beetle too! The surface on that particular piece of autobahn is good, but elsewhere there are some very bad autobahn surfaces. Herr Schmidt is not deterred by a bad surface. He rightly expects his cars to be able to take bad roads at high speed – and they do.

Congestion on British roads has in the past prevented the home user from driving fast and exposing his vehicle’s weakness. Now that there are motorways and the facilities for fast motoring, the 70 m.p.h. limit has taken over to stifle the motor industry. British cars will not improve if the home users cannot thrash them. Our motor industry is our biggest provider when it comes to foreign exchange. Mrs. Castle must not be allowed to wither the hand that feeds us by cutting off its life blood. That life blood is the continuous flow of information on how their products stand up to hard work. Once exported, hard work is certainly what will be expected of them. A dissatisfied owner abroad means the loss of many potential customers.

Out and out speed though is not the only factor. Inferior roads have helped enormously. In consequence Continental suspensions are generally superior to British ones. The local user, be he German, Italian, French or Swedish, will not tolerate a rough ride or rattle, even from old cars. This superiority of the Continental car is well illustrated by the fact that over 80% of the car-owning members of B.A.O.R. drive Continental makes. The patriotic few often pay dearly for the privilege. Further it is a very poor advertisement to the would-be German buyer of a British car to see four out of five British servicemen driving those Continental makes.

However it is not only the poor after-sales service and inferior durability of British cars which make people prefer the Continental alternatives. It is a free market here for N.A.T.O. servicemen. The enormous import tax on foreign cars taken into Great Britain which is designed to protect the home producers, smartly boomerangs and does untold damage to the industry. I would dearly love to thump down the autobahn waving the Union flag in a British car, but when I can buy a new Flavia coupé for under £1,200 I just have to be satisfied with the Italian product!

So away with the 70-m.p.h. limit and import tax. Let the industry compete on equal terms. It would succeed.

B.F.P.O. G. H. H. Brook, Captain.