The British motor industry is rapidly losing ground on export markets, but with very few exceptions the big manufacturers appear to adopt a policy of dictating what the purchaser shall have rather than giving him what he wants. Neglect of this peculiar market is the principal cause of the lack of interest in British cars on the Continent, plus total lack of publicity and virtually nonexistent service facilities.
It must, of course, be emphasised that the one single fact which is at present the great danger of the industry in Britain is the credit squeeze coupled with purchase tax. Some British manufacturers, to offset declining sales, have increased prices but this can only be a very short term palliative to the problem.
It appears that at the moment when motor transport is becoming “democratised” Government policy is to create further privileged classes by artificially inflating the prices of cars. This may be fiscally sound but commercially disastrous to the interest of the industry not merely on the home market but also in regard to export policy.
It was most interesting, as a British resident in France, to listen to the broadcast on Thursday, May 10th, given by representatives of Rootes, Renault, Volkswagen and the American Automobile Association. Dr Nordhoff’s rebuke to the British about commercial practice was fully justified. It is disgusting to see how British industry, when beaten hands down by foreign competitors, shrieks out about “unfair competition.”
One thing became crystal-clear during this broadcast which may be a key to our problems. The Rootes representative saw the increase in sales to workers as chiefly represented by sales of secondhand cars. The French and Germans see this as a vast new market and are making new cars to meet the market. Is this a case of class-conscious snobbery in the British Motor Industry or just shortsighted policy ? It remains a fact that only amongst the British does one continue to hear the announcement of ownership of a car in terms which suggest that footmen in livery are also in attendance. In Continental Europe, ownership of a car (and a new car at that !) is becoming more and more as accepted as radio-ownership in Britain.
Britain ! For the sake of your bread and butter take off the blinkers now.
I am, Yours, etc.,
WM Holdsworth, Bois Colombes.