By Clifford Webb Midlands Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland will spend £16m next year on reorganizing and developing production facilities at Austin-Morris, Longbridge, the group’s largest car plant. Work on a new model to be launched: in the spring will create jobs for another 2,000 employees Mr George Turnbull, deputy managing director of British Leyland and the head, of the Austin-Morris division, said: “There will be a big recruitment drive at Longbridge during the year. We anticipate that something in the order of 2,000 people will be required as we build up production.”
He said the employment position would remain fairly stable at Austin-Morris, Cowley, because production had already been increased there since the introduction of the Morris Marina..
“But, overall, Austin-Morris will be employing considerably more people than now. The current developments at Longbridge mean that we shall be spending over the next year something of the order of £16m. For the future we anticipate that in renewing existing equipment and refurbishing generally. we shall have continuous spending of a very high order in Austin-Morris. But we believe that profitability is there to pay for it. I am hopeful that we can spend these large amounts and gradually turn over the business, renewing and replacing as we go.”
What was the present health of Austin-Morris and was it capable of generating this level of investment?
“It was always thought to be the weak link in the organization, but everyone is now satisfied that it has been pulled round and is a very healthy part with very considerable potential” Mr Turnbull replied. He said the pressing need was to increase production not only to meet the requirements of a record home market but to supply parts to overseas assembly plants.
“Europe is the place where the real effort of British Leyland must go. That must be our first priority. Did this mean that British Leyland had to face huge investments in complete new factories before they were capable of maximizing the benefits of Common Market membership?
“We have to watch very carefully that the size of the market we have at present is going to continue. Mind you, going into Europe is going to be of tremendous benefit to us. It is going to give us a great deal, more flexibility in terms of making sure we can sell our complete output. We now have to make up our minds whether we really want to take another big piece of the European market with another big investment.”