The Bathgate closure
By Clifford Webb
The collapse of Leyland’s once profitable lorry business has been so damaging that some experts believe that any further delay in the planned closure of its plant at Bathgate, Scotland, could pull down the company. They believe phasing out Bathgate over the next two years is not quick enough and the decision has been delayed too long.
Leyland has lost £214m in the past two years. Its market share has fallen from about 30 per cent and clear market leadership in the early 1970s to a disastrous 13.4 per cent in 1982. It reversed the trend last year, to 14.5 per cent, as new models made their presence felt. That share compares with 19 per cent for Ford and Mercedes’s 9.3 per cent, although the German company is a relative newcomer.
Leyland production has fallen consistently, from 40,000 lorries a year in the early 1970s to 11,000 last year. It is hoped to increase that to 12,000 this year as British demand improves slowly. Leyland is not alone in its fight for survival. For the past three years European lorry markets have had their worst recession, with sales halved in many countries. In past home market recessions. Levland has relied on its traditional exports to the Commonwealth.
In 1979, it exported more than 10,000 lorries a year. But over the past 18 months these mainly developing countries have run into economic trouble. The Leyland labour force has been reduced from 29,000 in the late 1970s to 14,500 with 1,800 more to go at Bathgate. In the past three years. Leyland has introduced seven lorries, but a key replacement is missing.
The MT211 to be launched late this year, will replace the outdated Terrier in the lightweight sector, which accounts for 30 per cent of British sales.