BL50 : BLMC merger – Stokes reassures dealers

On 12 June 1968, Donald Stokes met with around 500 dealer principals and distributors to set out his vision of the future for the company.

The Times’ Clifford Webb reported on this meeting at the time, detailing Stokes belief that the company wouldn’t shrink its range of marques, and the upcoming Austin Maxi was going to be a world beater.

Super-salesman Stokes sells the BLMC dream…

More than 500 British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) distributors representing the whole Morris, Austin, MG, Wolseley and Riley distribution network crowded into the exhibition hall at Longbridge for a question and answer session on their future with Sir Donald Stokes, Chief Executive of British Leyland Motor Corporation.

Many of them went into the meeting expecting to hear the worst from a man who in the past had been critical of BMC’s retention of such a wide range of marques. To their amazement. Sir Donald told them that reports that he was dropping Wolseley and Riley were way off the mark and both will continue to be produced and sold alongside the main Austin and Morris ranges.

It is not clear, however, how long this will continue, and there was considerable speculation last night that it was only an interim measure while Sir Donald tackles the more pressing problem of the 5000 BMC dealers who at present compete not so much with the opposition as with each other.

‘I have no intention of presiding over the liquidation of any of our real assets’

But Stokes left the distributors at yesterday’s meeting in no doubt that unless they themselves are prepared to reorganize their own operations and put pressure on their dealers to do the same, they can expect short shrift.

At the same time he reassured them: ‘I have no intention of presiding over the liquidation of any of our real assets. Obviously there will be pruning and re-adjustment but, together with my colleagues, and I could not wish for a more competent and enthusiastic bunch, I am determined that with your help we are going to recapture far more than our present share of the domestic market.’

He promised them a completely new model policy for the next five years under the direction of Harry Webster recently promoted from Standard-Triumph to become Chief Engineer of British Leyland’s volume car division. He detailed the changes being made in the long-awaited 1500 saloon (Austin Maxi) whose delayed appearance leaves such a gap in the middle of the BMC range.

Keith Adams

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