By CLIFFORD WEBB
The first casualty of British Leyland’s review of manufacturing facilities will be a factory in Dunbar Avenue, Coventry, the smallest of three in the area pro- ducing engines for the Austin Morris division. It employs 250 workers. They have been told work will be transferred to the main engine works in Courthouse Green and to the other works in Dunbar Avenue.
The company said wherever possible new jobs will be found. Leyland is negotiating with the motor unions about further closures, but both sides have agreed to keep details confidential to avoid rumours. Pat Lowry, former director of the Engineering Employers’ Federation who was recently appointed Leyland’s industrial relations chief, is playing a key role. There is considerable conjecture in Coventrv about the future of another group factory, Pressed Steel Fisher, in Quinton Road.
The labour force there has been reduced in the past year by several hundred to about 300. Only Morris 1000 Traveller bodies are now built there, and these have to be transported to Cowley, near Oxford, for assembly. Leyland has announced the phasing out of the Morris 1000 saloon before the end of the year, and though no decision has been announced on the Traveller version, its life is likely to be limited. The Austin Morris division is she heart of the old B.M.C. empire and potentially Leyland’s biggest earner.
It is clearly ripe for further rationalization, the division’s plants are scattered about the Midlands. Some are equipped with outdated machinery and often duplicate work done more profitably elsewhere. A major problem is the cost of transporting bodies and other components to the main assembly plants at Longbridge, Birmingham and Cowley.
“We are paying out enormous sums to carry bodies, which after all are just big steel boxes containing air”. an executive said.
Improving the situation will necessarily involve Pressed Steel Fisher, which is Europe’s biggest car body builder and manufactures all Leyland bodies. It has plants at Cowley, Birmingham, Coventry, Llanelli and Swindon.