Archive : Mr Stokes At The Wheel


Leyland Chairman Donald (Lord) Stokes: A feared but highly respected statesman prior to the fall of BL. His knowledge of the bus & coach market knew no bounds.
Donald Stokes

When a Lancashire man starts to boast about his county’s formidable engineering skills he will soon mention Leylands. Mr D. G. Stokes, aged 49, is now in control of the £120m. group of truck and car manufacturers and engineering companies which comprises the Leyland Motor Corporation. His appointment as managing director and deputy chairinan is announced today.

Mr Stokes has set his sights upon continuing and possibly accelerating the wedding of the bedrock of Lancashire engineering to a superstucture of high-pressure salesmanship in every part of the world. His own progress through the ranks at Leylands is a microcosm of the company’s development.

He was on the shop floor as a student engineering apprentice in 1930. Quality in engineering and good design were his tutors. He returned from war service to develop the selling of Leyland products into an art to be practised on a world canvas. When last week he received Britain’s first “marketing award” it was the culmination of 15 years of peripatetic life leading the sales force: during which time the company’s exports increased five times. Triumph cars and vans now provide the group with an appropriate balance to their heavy trucks and buses.

In the context of the car industry Triumph looks less balanced. Its present output of some 120,000 units a year is small by mass-production standards. Mr Stokes believes that Triumph can be kept on a competitive basis and would like to see production rise to beyond 150,000 units a year in step with expansion in the other parts of the group.

In 25 months since taking over the old Standard-Triumph company Leylands have used strong methods (“Our peculiar Lancashire ways “, says Mr. Stokes) to improve quality and efficiency at their Coventry car plants. In the same time the car company has produced from scratch a new model, the Triumph 2000. It will need the courage of a sales-dedicated managing director like Mr Stokes to continue the Leylands fight to sell their trucks in the United States market. This, the hardest overseas market of all, they tackled last. But since going in 18 months ago they have been making measurable progress. Mr Stokes sees the effort giving a greater return than actual sales:  “This is a market which sets standards for our design and technical staff.”

It is typical of the post- war Leyland approach that they should be learning the finer points of styling and consumer appeal for heavy trucks the hard way in the United States because they believe the rest of the world will want similar standards within a few years.

Keith Adams

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