PROs versus Engineers

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Sir,

Oh dear ! I see that you have incurred the displeasure of the Rootes Group Public Relations Department.

My personal opinion is that it is somewhat off-hand for a company to answer technical criticisms in a technical journal via their PRO (a non-technical post), but I must admit that I dislike all PROs on principle, having a strong suspicion that they add to the cost of the product without improving either the quality thereof or the service that goes with it.

I am writing to you, however, because I think that this affair is a perfect example of the malaise affecting our British Motor Industry today. One might almost imagine their motto was “We’ve got to make two things, cars and excuses, and the excuses must be good”! It would appear that when faced with strong overseas competition the boardrooms can think of only three remedies : (1) Step up the Press and stunt-advertisement allocation; (2) get a better PRO, and (3) fiddle about with the styling.

In their colossal complacency, it does not appear to have occurred to any of the large British manufacturers to allocate more to design and research, with the result that we are now left floundering far behind the French, Germans and Italians in technical development. What British car in production is as technically advanced in its class as the following ? : Volkswagen (incidentally, a direct descendent of racing design): Citroen 2 cv and DS19; Mercedes 220, 190SL, and 300SL, Fiat 600 and 1,100; or any well-known American make.

It’s an odds-on bet that the salary and expenses applicable to the post of PRO to the Routes Group total more than three times that of their chief qualified engineer, and that it is easier for the stylist to get a 50s per car allocation than it is for the engineers to get 5s ; indicative of the relative importance placed on the respective posts. Small wonder that the number of really able engineers available to the Industry is dwindling each year due to emigration and change of occupation. (It would, incidentally, be interesting to know the gross emoluments of the chief qualified engineers at, say, Chevrolet, Mercedes and Citroen, as a sidelight on the point.)

The above remarks are critical but they stem from an honest desire to see this country in the lead in the world’s automobile markets. Incidentally, the views expressed are not necessarily those of the companies with which I am associated.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Rodney Clarke,  Send.

[Mr. Rodney Clarke is, of course, the person who persuaded Mr. Kenneth McAlpine to build Connaughts and to whom goes most of the credit for putting up the best show by a British car in the important sphere of post-war Grand Prix racing—so his views do carry weight !—Ed.]