By Basil Cardew
There are two Maxis in our lives, the ankle length fashion and the 5-seat, 5-door, and 5-gear car. Both slow starters. Whatever view you take of the clothes, the best that can be said for the car is that it has been doggedly defended by Lord Stokes, head of the new £500 million British Leyland group.
The Maxi has faced mounting criticism since it was launched last April. The output of Maxis is now down to 1,000 cars a week, not nearly filling the assembly lines of a £24 million factory to build its engine. Its sales are 2.2 per cent of the home market. The Maxi is said to have a ponderous gear change, excessive road noise, and disappointing performance.
Its price of £979, including purchase tax, is said to be too high in relation to its closest rivals… Renault 16 (£970), Ford Cortina Estate (£958), French Simca 1100 Estate (£959), Vauxhall Victor (£949), and Hillman Minx de luxe (£851). The Maxi, say the critics, would, be all right if it were sorted out properly. It feels and sounds unrefined, with buzzes, shakes, and booms. It gives a bumpy ride and the advantage of the five speed gearbox is offset by the tortuous gear change.
So last night I tackled 53-year-old Lord Stokes who said: “We have 31 basic models under the British Leyland umbrella, the Maxi is only one. Yes, I have heard,some of these criticisms but I tell you categorically, that the Maxi is here to stay at least for another 10 years. There were similar criticisms when B.M.C. brought out their 1800 model, but now it is one of our best sellers.”
He is convinced that by next spring the Maxi will be a best seller. The Austin-Morris 1800 was considerably modified before it gained favour: Will the Maxi also be worked on?
Said Lord Stokes : “At this time we contemplate no major modifications.”
My view: The Maxi’s future will be decided one way or the other by early next year.
WORKERS BACK AS A SMELL STOPS
Fifteen workers who walked out of the Rover car plant at Solihull, Warwicks, because of a mystery smell, went back to work yesterday and production started again.
The company, which laid off about 500 men after the walk-out said the smell came from an undersealing bay and had been stopped.