By Clifford Webb
British Leyland distributors and dealers yesterday reported so much interest in the company’s new model 1800/2200 they are predicting that it will become the best selling large saloon ever produced by a British company. But a development causing problems is the number of Motorists who want to make part-exchange deals of imported cars for the new model.
A spokesman for Mann Egerton, one of the largest BLMC distributors in the country, said: “We are being offered Peugeots, Citroens and BMWs in part exchange for the new car. These are normally regarded as being up market of the Austin Morris range. We can sell every 1800/2200 we can get, but naturally we are being a little careful about the type of car we are taking in part exchange. ” We have now got a car which, because of its advanced styling and comprehensive equipment, is more than a match for the importers. And at £2,100 it is very competitively priced.”
BLMC expected dealers’ reluctance to take foreign cars and warned them that they must adopt a more flexible attitude if they were to reach the one third of the British market now dominated by foreign makes. Dealers also reported interest from an unexpected quarter, the fleet buyer. The old 1800 never made an impact in this key sector. Now companies are being pressed by executives to replace their present car with the trendy new 1800/2200.
A British Leyland spokesman said last night: “We don’t want to crow too early, but motorists’ initial response has been so good that we are all getting a little excited about the car’s prospects.”
Some 8,000 Austin, Morris and Wolseley versions were in the hands of the trade for launch day. With the help of a night shift, production at the Cowley factory is now running at about 1,000 a week, building up to 1,400 by mid-year. Soon after that target is reached BLMC plans to introduce it into Europe. They are keeping the actual starting date flexible to give priority to more profitable home sale.