Archive : Unexpected Triumph

From TIME magazine
World Business: Unexpected Triumph
Friday, Jan. 11, 1963

For European automakers the statistics were downright chilling. Though 1962 was a year of booming auto sales in the US, imported cars failed to share in the fun. Their US sales fell from 379,000 in 1961 to an estimated 330,000 last year. Their share of the US auto market was a bare 5%, less than half what it was in 1959.

Only a handful of foreign automakers succeeded in bucking this trend. Volkswagen, the No. 1 import, increased its sales from 203,000 to 225,000. More surprising was the performance of Britain’s Standard-Triumph, which increased its sales 50%, from 12,000 to 18,000 cars, and leapfrogged from sixth to third place among imported makes.

Standard’s unexpected triumph stems from an infusion of new management and new ideas. Two years ago, faced with enormous retooling costs and an ominous sales slump, the Coventry automaker succumbed to a takeover bid by Leyland Motors Ltd., Britain’s biggest truck and bus maker. Leyland’s laconic Chairman Sir Henry Spurrier, 64, follows a simple creed.

‘We don’t run risks,’ he snaps. ‘We run Leyland.’

Sir Henry introduced the new regime at Standard by easing out former Standard Boss Alick Dick, 46, the imaginative one time boy wonder of the British auto industry; in as Dick’s replacement went Lancashire-born Stanley Markland, 59, an old Leyland hand who started out as an apprentice.

Recognizing where Standard-Triumph strength lay, Markland pushed sports cars and convertibles for the US Helped by a recovering auto market in Britain and abroad, Markland’s decision paid off handsomely. Spurred by a brisk demand for its sports cars, Standard-Triumph’s worldwide sales last year rose 24%.

For 1963, Standard’s goal in the US is to overtake second-place Renault, whose US sales last year slipped from 44,000 to about 34,000. This week the car that Standard-Triumph is betting on to do the trick will make its US debut at the Miami auto show. It is the Spitfire, a racy two-seater sports car which is a little brother of the TR-4, last year’s bestselling imported sports car in the US Priced at $2,199 in the Eastern US, the Spitfire has roll-up windows, road-clinging independent four-wheel suspension, and speeds up to 92mph on a 63hp engine. If anything can accelerate Standard-Triumph’s progress, the Spitfire ought to be it.

Keith Adams

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