Archive : Stokes to takeover Innocenti

By Roger Eglin

1974 Innocenti Mini 120
1974 Innocenti Mini 120

British Leyland is to buy the Italian family-owned car company, Innocenti Autoveicoli , of Milan, for some £3 million. Innocenti already assembles Austin and Morns cars, mainly Minis , imported in kit form. A few minor technical points have to be resolved before the deal goes through, but the British Leyland chairman. Lord Stokes, does not expect this to raise any problems.

“This is quite a significant deal. In this markel our sales are running at a rate of 60,000 a year, which is substantial ,” he said in London yesterday.

Innocenti is running ahead of this year ‘s sales target of 60,500. In March the company was second only to Fiat in the Italian car market, in front of Alfa-Romeo and the major importers , Volkswagen and Renault. Mr Geoffrey Robinson , 32, a former Industrial Reorganisation Corporation executive and now financial controller of British Leyland, is to take over as managing director of Innocenti.

In Italy Innocenti has created a premium market for the Mini which accounts for about 90 per cent of sales, by restyling the bodywork slightly as well as giving it a more luxurious interior. Lord Stokes beheves Innocenti’s assembly capacity can be stepped up to 75,000 cars a year without further capital expenditure.

“We could achieve 100,000 for only a modest investment,” he says.

But at the moment the main limitation on this is the availability of supplies from Britain. Ultimately Lord Stokes hopes to see the Innocenti plant increasing its exports to other European countries. Within the next year or so he hopes to add another car, almost certainly “a Marina with an Italian flavour .” British Leyland intends to use the deal as an opportunity to strengthen its Italian sales network .

Talks with Innocenti have been going on for about two years, but among the first to hear that the deal was going ahead were Innocenti’s 4,000 employees. Mr Robinson met them three days ago at the 90-acre plant and confirmed British Leyland’s plans.

Keith Adams

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