By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
Sir Michael Edwardes, BL chairman, will be going to the Government next week for a £325m vote of confidence in the state-owned motor group. Riding on the success of the launch of the Metro, he is seeking £175m to put a potentially more profitable medium saloon codenamed LC10 into production in 1981/83.
A further £150m is needed to finance a new range of Jaguar saloons, to continue the modernization of Leyland Vehicles truck range and to cover heavy redundancy payments. A BL spokesman said yesterday: “Sir Michael is putting the final touches to the 1981 Business Plan which he will be submitting to the Government shortly, probably early next week.”
Sir Michael and other BL executives are jubilant at the reaction of Mrs Thatcher and her ministers to the public interest being shown in Metro. The Prime Minister went out of her way in her Motor Show speech last week to praise him for outstanding leadership and even drove a Metro herself to perform the official opening. Sir Michael has said that the Metro is the “litmus test” of everything he has done since joining BL three years ago and has made it clear that government backing for LC10 rests squarely on Metro’s success.
Last night BL estimated that long-term orders for Metro, some of them for delivery five years ahead, have now topped the £100m mark. More good news for BL is that unofficial figures for new car registrations in the first two weeks of October give it a 24 per cent market share compared with 19 per cent last month. BL’s “Metro mania”, as one Ford executive described it at the Motor Show yesterday, is somewhat dampened by the closure of MGs sportscar factory at Abingdon on Friday.