Archive : Leyland holds the whip hand in BLMC

By Adam Raphael

Britain’s biggest motor manufacturer, the British Leyland Motor Corporation, employing nearly 200,000 men with annual sales worth more than £800 millions, comes into existence officially today. Leyland’s merger with BMC in January was described tactfully at first as a joining of forces, but the new operatng structure announced today is clearly dominated by Leyland management philosophies and Leyland men.

In the tightly controlled pattern set by American companies, such as General Motors, there are to be seven operating divisions – under Sir Donald Stokes as chief executive – linked by a central staff division to provide special services for the whole organisation.

The divisions are :

1. Volume car and light commercial (BMC);
2. specialist car (Triumph, Rover, and Jaguar);
3. truck and bus;
4. Pressed Steel Fisher;
5. overseas;
6. general engineering and foundries;
7. construction equipment.

Two key appointments are announced: Mr Harry Webster, formerly chief engineer at Standard Triumph, who becomes executive chief engineer of the volume car division; and Mr Keith Hopkins as director of public relations for the corporation.

Mr Michael Shanks, economic adviser to Leyland, has been made director of marketing services, an appointment designed to remedy what has been recognised as a serious failing of British car makers – ‘the lack of detailed information and forecasting on consumer demand. British Leyland’s new model policy – the rook on which the new organisation will soar or founder – had already been formulated as far ahead as 1972, Sir Donald said.

And he hinted that some ‘pretty interesting’ models would be revealed next year – one of which should be the long awaited BMC 1500 range. Rationalisation of new models is certain to be accompanied by extensive pruning of dealerships. What may emerge is two separate dealer chains on the general Motors pattern – one for luxury, specialist, and sports cars, and the other for the basic production saloons.

Asked how large he wanted British Leyland to become, Sir Donald gave this typically extrovert reply: ‘ I won’t think BLM is big enough until we have taken over General Motors and Ford.’

Keith Adams

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