While Mr. Harry Webster, the designer, was drawing the outlines for the new Morris Marina, he was being prompted by a brash and brilliant salesman: a fugitive from Ford, Mr. Filmer Paradise, director of sales for the Austin Morris division. In every informed autopsy on the old B.M.C. it is said that one of their mistakes was too great a dependence on engineers and not enough on salesmen.
The AD0 28 changed all that. Mr. Paradise insisted that to beat the American owned companies at their speciality the car would have to be similarly conventionally engineered, It would have to be easy to service and to have especially good looks,
“so that the men who drive fleet cars will tell the men who buy fleet cars that they want the new Morris. My attitude was linked to the philosophy that this car should be seen as a clear value for money package. We were aiming to take sales from the Cortina, Escort, Avenger and, to some extent, the Viva. In fact, we reckoned that half our sales would be what I call ‘conquests”.
The sales department had to agree that the fleet operators might be wrong in their shunning of front-wheel drive and transverse engines. “But it was our job to give the fleet operators what they wanted, not tell them what they wanted.”
Those who were against a conventional car also had powerful arguments. The strongest of these were the sales figures for cars of Issigonis design. Read coldly, they show almost complete success. Why was it necessary to step backwards? To get to the people who would not or could not step forward. And sales of Cortinas were showing that these people formed a large section of the market. Perhaps, in any case, it is wrong to label all new cars of conventional design as a “step backwards”.
While front-wheel drive, hydrolastic suspension and transverse engines give some definite advantages they are often wasted on a public that fails to notice them. The marketing of the Marina, a name chosen and pushed through many objections by Mr. Paradise will be much more reminiscent of Ford technique than of methods used by British Leyland in past launches. Typical of slogans which are being used in advertising is one which is Mr. Paradise’s favourite: ‘Beauty with brains behind it.’
“We looked at what we were good at and known for, strong, quality and reliable engineering, and tried to match it with something we were not so well known for, good looks. We feel we have combined both these qualities in the Marina.”
Also reminiscent of Ford is the ‘package ” selling. But Mr. Paradise believes that Ford have taken it too far. “There is so much variety in their options that even the salesmen have trouble in sorting it out”, he says. For once British Leyland are prepared for a launch.
There are 5,000 Marinas in showrooms all over the country. Mr. Paradise’s ebullience ends when it comes to making long term predictions about sales. In this he has retained the caution of his training as an economist. But it is hard to shake his confidence in the Marina and he will talk of selling 180,000 units abroad in 1973 and about 125,000 over here.
If he is right. British Leyland are back on the right road. Mr. Paradise says he ‘ wandered” into the automobile industry. He came to British Levland from retirement; retirement that came, after resignation from Ford over what he calls a strong disagreement. His colourful background includes five vears experience in the White House as a senior aid in the Truman Administration.
While with Ford he helped to foresee and prepare for the family car sales boom in Europe and on the way to becoming Austin-Morris sales director he brilliantly reorganized B.M.C.’s European sales structure.