By Clifford Webb
British Leyland are stepping up exports of Morris Marinas to the United States to take advantage of a marked swing to smaller cars following fears of a petrol shortage there. A spokesman said that since the Marina was introduced to the United States in February, there had been “an overwhelming demand which they were unable to meet. We could sell. twice as many Marinas if we could only produce them.”
He said shipments were now approaching 750 Marinas a month and these would be increased as production at Cowley improved. Another 2,000 employees are being recruited there. Building and expansion work is being rushed through to push weekly Marina output above the present 5,000 a week. Only the larger 1.8 litre version of the Marina is going to the United States.
Even so, with its 25 to 30 miles a United States gallon it is appreciably more economical to run than American sub-compacts, and more than competitive with most Japanese and European rivals. British Leyland are conscious of the need for improved spares and servicing facilities in the United States and a huge New Jersey spares centre is now supplying 12 subcentres giving coast-to-coast coverage.
The Marina made a poor start in America. In February it was given the biggest and most prestigious launch ever for a British car. Some 800 dealers and scores of motoring correspondents were flown to Marco Island in the Florida Everglades and more than Â£600,000 was spent on advertising and promotion. But the launch coincided with a month-long strike by British Road Services drivers supplying its Midland plants. This reduced Marina deliveries to a trickle, and United States dealers who had enthusiastically placed large orders at Marco had to wait weeks before their first Marina was delivered.