By GILES SMITH
British Leyland, Britain’s biggest car maker, yesterday announced plans costing £45m. for major expansion of the Cowley, Oxford, car-making facilities. The expansion centres on the adjoining plants of Pressed Steel Fisher, Europe’s biggest car body maker, and of the Austin-Morris Division.
It will double car output to make the Cowley complex one of Britain’s largest single car producing areas. With a 20,000 labour force to remain fairly stable during the expansion, the complex will be producing a wide range of Austin and Morris cars, including the new Austin Maxi. Output will rise over the next few years from 5,000 vehicles to 10,000 a week.
The move-part of the group’s £200m. spending programme, is the first major expansion plan to be implemented by British Leyland and is the first example of an almost totally integrated plant being formed from separate facilities. John Lutyens, managing director of P.S.F, Division, said yesterday that the £45m. was for long term expansion at Cowley. He denied that the investment would have any significant effect on future plans for other P.S.F. plants.
The first phase of the plan to 1970. mainly affects P.S.F. and involves the redevelopment of part of the main body making building. The plan includes conveyor modlfications. site clearance. the provision of a new paint shop, rearrangement of existing press shop facilities and expansion of the mechanized delivery conveyor system linking the two factories which are on opposite sides of the road. Over the next two years electrocoat paint priming capacity will be introduced on the Austin- Morris south side and the car assembly facilities increased. After 1971 a second new paint shop will be developed at P.S.F. and the car assemblv facilities on the north side of the Austin- Morris site increased accordingly.
Pressed Steel Fisher officials say the new plan will allow a greater proportion of the 2,200 tons of steel it uses a week to be transported by rail. Mr. Lutyens said: “Through improved plant, equipment and methods, a substantial increase in productivity will be obtained without expansion of the labour force.”