By Clifford Webb
British Leyland sold a remarkable 44.8 per cent of the 112,000 cars registered in Britain in February, it was announced yesterday. Sales of British Leyland cars were 6 per cent better than in January, and the group’s highest market penetration since the 45 per cent achieved in exceptionally favourable circumstances in April, 1971. However, both Ford and Vauxhall should improve as the new Escort and a small Vauxhall saloon, announced tomorrow, reach dealers in growing numbers.
A jubilant Mr Keith Hopkins, new managing director of Leyland’s Austin-Morris division, said last night: “Our 1975 sales campaign is based on the belief that given free availability of cars, Austin-Morris will prove to be the dominant force in the United Kingdom market. Our faith has been vindicated in the most dramatic fashion. This year could be a great year for us despite the fact that the market as a whole will be smaller.”
The total British car market was down by more than 18,000 cars compared with January’s 130,700. For the first time, British Leyland took the top three places, with the Mini, Marina and Allegro respectively relegating Ford’s Cortina, number one for so long-to fourth position. The Mini’s 13.6 per cent was its best penetration since the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders began publishing these statistics in 1963.
The Austin-Morris division was entirely responsible for the improvement. It took 38.8 per cent, its highest market share since British Leyland was formed seven years ago. Jaguar and Rover-Triumph sales were down. The most promising development from Leyland’s point of view is that it won sales at the expense of not only its British competitors, but also importers.