By Clifford Webb
With the return of 4000 Rover car workers yesterday British Leyland has now resumed production of all its models. The workers’ return coincided with the ending of the controversial ” Buy British ” campaign which after a poor January and February produced record sales in March. Figures for the whole month are not available yet, but the first 20 days saw BL’s market share increase from an all-time low in January of 15 per cent to 18 per cent in February, and 23 per cent in March. The cutting of Maxi prices by as much as £40 trebled March sales to well over 5,000.
Extensive discounting of the Rover saloon series increased sales to 3,500 compared with 2,000 in March 1979. From today all Marina models will be subject to a 10 per cent price cut in an attempt to clear existing stocks before a replacement model,just starting production at Cowley, comes on to the market in two months.
Discounting to this extent over the past three months was a desperation measure to be resorted to only when a company faces a cash flow crisis. Sir Michael Edwardes, the BL chairman, has admitted that maintaining an adequate cash flow is taking precedence over profit. The sale of cars such as Rovers at £2,000 below list price, depresses the new and second-hand markets for these models for at least six months.
Production of the TR7 sports car began yesterday at Rover Solihull. It is being switched gradually from Triumph’s Coventry plant about four miles away and which is earmarked for closure as part of the recovery programme involving 13 other plants and 30,000 redundancies.
National union leaders and the union side of the BL Cars joint negotiating committee meet in Coventry tomorrow to consider the committee’s recommendation that all 11 manual unions at BL should declare an official strike starting on April 8. This is the day that the company has said it will impose its pay and conditions package after the breakdown of negotiations which lasted for nearly five months. There are indications that workers are divided in their support for a strike.