By Clifford Webb
A new management shake-up is under way at Leyland Cars. Mr Bill Davis has resigned from the key post of. manufacturing director, starting a chain reaction ending in a list of new appointments which will be announced today. Reliable sources within the company said last night that Mr Derek Whittaker, managing director, had been surprised by the growing discontent ex-pressed by plant managers.
They complained that the present centralized structure was frustrating their attempts to answer Mr Whittaker’s repeated calls for increased production. The irony of this development is that over-centralization was identified by Lord Ryder’s committee as a basic fault in the old British Leyland group and this led to the formation of four largely autonomous companies, of which Leyland Cars is one. It is understood that the two divisional structures which stand between Mr Whittaker and his plant managers are being disbanded immediately.
They are the power train and foundry division, with Mr Dick Perry as managing director, and the body and assembly division headed by Mr Ian Showan. In their place will be a small central manufacturing team which will almost certainly be headed by one of these two men. Mr Davis’s resignation was confirmed by the company yesterday. A short statement said he had been transferred to a new post at his own request.
No further details were available. Mr Davis, 56, is one of the motor industry’s most experienced production experts. As group manufacturing director of the old BL set-up, with a seat on the main board-he was a powerful figure in the company. He was also Mr Whittaker’s boss. There have been reports recently of disagreements between the two, but colleagues insist it is mainly a personality clash.
Mr Davis is a lifelong BL employee. He joined the Austin Motor Company in 1935 as an engineering apprentice. After the Leyland-BMC merger in 1968 he became deputy managing director of Austin Morris. In 1970 he was appointed chairman and chief executive of, Triumph. He is one of the very few former BMC senior executives who made the grade in British Leyland.