Much as I admire the spirit of Mr. Elliot-Pyles letter (Motor Sport for June “why do the beggars go out and buy foreign rubbish?”), the matter is more complicated than a direct Comparison of British and foreign cars. I believe foreign car buyers fall into three main categories those who are anti-British cars, usually because of a had deal they have had in the past, those who have read all the literature, done their homework (i.e. read Motor Sport) and honestly believe the car they are buying best suits their needs and pocket, and lastly, and I think the majority, are those with the money to spend on a particular British car and are told to come back in a year’s time, whereas they can get a foreign car “off the shelf”. It is this basic lack of supply which is sounding the death knell of our car industry, since it also means that dealers find they cannot remain in business depending on the sale of home built cars. The local garage owner, having been given a foreign manufacturer’s dealership is able to cram his premises with cars and spares and can’t fail to -attract local customers who go there regularly for fuel and service. Also, despite all the encouraging figures published front time to time, one just doe!: not see British cars abroad, let alone showrooms or advertising. Our commercial vehicle side is supposed to be thriving, whereas I ant often at the Channel Ports and have yet to see arty British trucks, over about 3 tons in foreign ownership, and for every British vehicle being exported there seems to be hundreds of foreign ones on the way in.
In all this, British Leyland’s performance is in my opinion by far the worst and can only be described as pathetic. They have completely missed the boat with the hatch-back market, whereas the writing was on the wall many years ago with introduction of the Renault 5, and others, and it took the Italians to do the commonsense thing and update the body on an otherwise very good mini. Then there is the Allegro a very good car, but I know of many people who enthused over them but bought foreign because of the lack of hatch-back. We have seen the premature demise of the most successful Jaguar and its replacement with the ugliest “sports” car yet (MGB and TR7 excepted; along with some of the most ludicrous advertising, and on the latter subject, foreign competitors must be wetting themselves at that idiotic “gremlin” TV advert. In the middle of the range comes the Marina with all the appeal of a housebrick; compare the finish with the foreign competition and then see why you hardly find any in France or Germany. At the top of the range the Range Rover and 3500 Rover excellent cars, but try and buy one.
I am loathe to be a prophet of doom, but unless British manufacturers, especially BI., get to grips with the problem the industry will soon go the same way as that of the motorcycle.
Chatham, Kent JULIAN N. BROWNRIDGE
P.S. No, I don’t drive foreign, and even have a British motorcycle, hi-fl and television, heaven help me!