THE EMBARRASSING MINI’S
By Jane McLoughlin
The BL Mini has sold itself into a shortage. BL has maintained its market lead in UK with the Mini and Allegro through the first 20 days of September, but now an “unpleasant” shortage of models is embarrassing the company . The Mini , boosted by publicity over its 20th anniversary year, has taken 6.5 per cent of the UK market over the first 20 days of this month , with the Allegro on just under 4 per cent.
During the whole of last year, the Mini averaged 5 per cent. The shortage of models to sell is not simply the result of curtailed production during the engineering workers strike. BL usually imports about 1,000 cars a month from its plant at Seneffe in Belgium, but the 2,800 workers there are not able to increase output to meet demand in UK. This is partly because of a boom in sales of the Mini in Europe at presentâ€”including huge demand from France and Italy, where there is also a shortage to meet demand.
Austin Morris has achieved higher production this year at both Cowley and Longbridgeâ€”but Longbridge , where both Mini and Allegro models are made, has suffered some industrial hitches. The company says that it hopes to meet most demands , though it expects the high level of demand for the Mini to hold up throughout this year. The situation is ” unpleasant,” not critical. The booming sales of the fuel economic Mini and Allegro is put down chiefly to the first real signs of reaction to the energy crisis and the high cost of petrol.
BL has admitted that this is beginning to bite , and that the economy end of the range is benefiting. Already the company has brought forward the introduction of the new Allego model which was due to be launched in mid-October to make 1980 cars available for today’s market. The present engineering dispute is costing two days production a week on Allegros. Meanwhile, the Mini has topped 63,000 sales this yearâ€”20 per cent ahead of last year.
BL says that it has outsold the rival ranges of Fiat, Citroen , Peugeot or Volkswagenâ€”and is confident that even if customers have to wait they will consider it worthwhile.