By Peter Durisch
Leyland chief Sir Michael Edwardes left Britain over Christmas with a special messagefor motorists , Buy British. He made the appeal as he prepared to board a plane for Tokyo to finalise a deal with Honda. Sir Michael appealed to buyers to support the British car industry, pointing out that imported cars claimed 60 per cent of the British car market last month.
‘Without that support, the motor industry is virtually on its last legs in this country,’ he said.
‘There’s a danger that the British car industry will cease to exist altogether.’
BL is launching a Buy British campaign early in the New Year in an attempt to woo back some of the buyers who have succumbed to the marketing ploys of rival makers. The campaign, in the press and on television, will compare the fuel economy and cost of spare parts of BL models with their European and Japanese rivals. Sir Michael was speaking on Christmas Day as he left to sign the agreement with Honda to produce and market their new family car in Britain and the Common Market. He arrived in Japan yesterday and will sign the deal today. The new car will replace the dated Triumph Dolomite range and about 80,000 vehicles a year will be produced at Cowley beginning in the summer of 1981.
‘Without this model there would be no future for Cowley,’ said Sir Michael.
‘I think it’s fair to say that BL has lagged behind in updating some models.’
The car is said by BL engineers to be one of the ‘finest cars driven’. Development will start immediately in January. Special steel and bodywork will be done in Oxford, and all major bodywork will be done elsewhere in England. When asked why BL had sought Japanese expertise an official in Tokyo said: ‘Many of our engineers have left the business because of the lack of differentials and abetted by the wage freeze. We are desperately short of our own expertise and engineers.’
Sir Michael, who is BL’s chairman flew to Tokyo despite the fact that his father has died in South Africa. Immediately after signing the deal he will fly to South Africa to attend his father’s funeral.