From Clifford Webb, Midlands Industrial Correspondent
A number of British Leyland’s biggest Austin-Morris distributors have had their sales territories reduced in the final stages of the restructuring of the old BMC sales network. The company claims that the exercise, which has taken nearly three years, has been carried out without any of the bloodletting which was forecast at the time of the Leyland-BMC merger. Nevertheless, substantial cuts have been made. Of the 4,500 distributors and dealers handling BMC cars in 1968 at least 1,000 have lost their franchises. In some cases they were withdrawn because their holders were unable to meet sales targets set by the company. Others left voluntarily, most of them to take on foreign car franchises. Inquiries last night pointed to the work of one man in particular as being responsible for what a Morris distributor described as
“the quietest but most far reaching revolution in the car trade in my lifetime”.
He is Mr Bert Lawrence, Austin-Morris sales market planning manager. Mr Lawrence, a former Ford sales executive, joined BMC before the merger to help reorganize its European sales network. Under the restructuring terms Austin-Morris distributors have been allocated sales targets up to 19 per cent higher than their average performance. The acceptance of such high targets has placed their finances under’ considerable pressure and is leading to renewed demands for contracts to run for a longer period than the existing annual contract.