This is an open letter to those with influence in the British motor car and motorcycle industries.
At this time when enormous effort and change is essential for Britain’s recovery, it is obviously the right moment to take a hard look at exports.
As a British resident of New York Cily, I have long marvelled at the preponderance of Volkswagens (an average of six VW products per 100 yard street block), and thought how nice it would be if at least some of those cars had been Minis.
For whatever idiotic reason, BMC and now Leyland have decided that Minis should not be exported to America. Now the cities of the US are filled with VW “Rabbits” (“Golfs” to you, I think), Fiat 128s, Renault 5s and Honda “Civics”, all direct derivatives of the Mini. Why has Britain clearly planned to avoid this vast market?
Today, at a time when America is enjoying a nationwide boom in the sales of 4-wheel-drive vehicles, Land-Rover has just been removed from the market and its old customers punished by a tripling of Land-Rover parts prices. Moreover, the Range-Rover, a natural for the US, is not available nor is ever likely to be. Can anyone explain?
Right now when the US is in the midst of Motorcycle Mania, the British imports still offer kick-starting and are being passed over in favour of the Japanese self-starting models. Are British businessmen really so stuffy that they are unwilling to adjust their products to suit a huge market?
In the midst of the first great US movement towards “compact” cars, where are the British contenders? The Marina made a pitiful, lightly advertised appearance. But right now there is not a single medium-priced British family car on the US market. All that is being offered are “specialised” cars: Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, MG and Triumph. Leyland, the independents and the motorcycle manufacturers must grasp at once that the World’s largest market is here, more than willing to buy well-made and interesting British products. The effort must be made to adapt to foreign markets, to make the necessary safety and emission changes, however costly and boring it may be. British companies must be willing to advertise strongly and lustily in the USA and provide encouraging parts and maintenance services.
The magic formula that has made Germany and Japan hugely successful is very simple: “Get off your rump and do it!”
Britain must participate in the outside world. If you don’t make vehicles available to the US you won’t sell any, and vice versa. Minis, Princesses, Range-Rovers, Morgans, Nortons! You all belong in America; let’s be seeing you!
TOM COURTENAY-CLACK New York