By CLIFFORD WEBB
British Leyland is adding the final polish to one of the most costly and painstakingly prepared new car launches seen in this country. Nothing has been spared to ensure that when the new overhead camshaft Austin 1500 makes its long, delayed appearance on April 24, it does so with the maximum impact.
Lord Stokes, the Corporation’s chairman, has taken a personal hand in every stage of the “run-up” for this all-important first new car built since the merger of Leyland and B.M.C. in the spring of 1968. By the end of last week 7,000 people had seen, and in many cases, driven, the 1500. They include Europe’s entire corps of motoring correspondents. Austin distributors and dealers and Corporation employees down to the level of foreman. The Portuguese holiday resort of Estoril was taken over for a fortnight.
Three parties of Pressmen,each about 80 strong, were flown out for three days of concentrated road testing. Some 36 1500s had been driven round MIRA’s high-speed circuit day and night beforehand to ensure that they were properly run in.
Lord Stokes, George Turnbull, managing director of the Austin- Morris division, and Filmer Paradise, his sales chief, were present throughout most of the Portuguese testing. The press visits were followed by 250 Austin distributors. This was the first occasion on which this important section of the group’s sales network had been invited to take part in an overseas launch. For a nominal payment of £50 each, they were flown out for two days of wining and dining at the plush Estoril Sol hotel. The Portuguese parties were followed by a series of similar presentations at Longbridge.
Over three days 2,300 dealers and their salesmen were dealt with. They were followed by 3,600 British Leyland employees. On April 24. the company will have full-page advertisements in every national newspaper. In the next few days these and other prestige advertisements will be aimed at full coverage of United Kingdom readership.