By PETER HILL
Sixty thousand workers in British Leyland’s Austin Morris division are warned today that greater productivity and increased efficiency are needed to meet the challenge of rising foreign car imports. In June, foreign manufacturers took a record 15 per cent share of the British car market. George Turnbull, managing director of British Leyland’s biggest division, sounded the warning as workers returned from their fortnight’s summer holiday.
“We must all buckle down to the job in hand of getting more production out of our factories and producing more efficiently to keep ourselves competitive”, Mr. Turnbull said in a message. Output was 10 per cent down on the corresponding total of last year and 88,000 vehicles had been lost through strikes and breakdowns of all kinds, he disclosed.
“We must meet our production programmes. I ask everyone in the organization to make a special effort to achieve this, as well as achieving our C.K.D. programmes (completely knocked down parts for export), which keep our overseas plants going – and to make sure there are plentiful supplies of spare parts to give a first class service to our customers “.
The market share of British Leyland, the largest United Kingdom car maker fell to 33.5 per cent during June, its lowest level since the merger of Leyland and B.M.C. two years ago.
Mr. Turnbull, along with his opposite numbers at Chrysler and Vauxhall, blamed strikes in the industry for a large part of the import penetration. “During the last couple of months we have had the blackest period ever for disputes, most of them at suppliers’ plants “, he pointed out.
“When the chips are down the success or failure of the British motor industry is in the hands of management and workers on the shop floor. If cars are not made for any reason, whether strikes or plant breakdowns, they cannot be sold, and ultimately the financial resources of the industry must be drained. Our overseas competitors have already seen these signs of weakness and redoubled their efforts to increase their penetration of our home market.”
British Leyland was particularly badly hit by the recent strike at Dunlop which, with other stoppages at key components suppliers caused more than 16,000 incomplete vehicles to be stockpiled at the start of the holidays. A team of 400 volunteers worked through the holiday to clear a large part of this backlog.
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