By Clifford Webb
British Leyland today announces the long-awaited flagship for its European truck sales drive, the Marathon. Capable of operating at the British legal limit of 32 tons, the vehicle can go as high as 44 tons gross vehicle weight and will be the biggest general purpose truck built in this country.
In addition to its export potential, the Marathon will help Leyland to stem the consider- able home market penetration achieved by foreign trucks since 1970. At £8,750, it has been carefully priced to within a few pounds of the best selling foreign rival and United Kingdom market leader, the F86 Volvo. Because of its lighter unladen weight the Marathon is claimed to be more economic to operate in Britain than heavier foreign vehicles. Existing Leyland and AEC sales and servicing networks are being merged to improve home sales.
Mr Ron Ellis, managing, director of British Leyland’s truck and bus division, said yesterday: “We are aiming at a 20 per cent share of the total European truck market. To do that we have to get into the big fleets, and without a superheavy to carry the banner and be seen on the roads of Europe we have been badly handicapped. Fleet buyers are first attracted by the top of the range model, but they want to buy one make in all sizes to simplify repairs and servicing. We can now offer them the biggest range of trucks in Europe.”
In the hope of countering the juggernaut image, British Leyland is labelling the Marathon, “the gentle giant “. Mr Ellis said: “We have done everything possible to ensure that Marathon is acceptable in environmental terms while keeping the price competitive. Noise levels are significantly within the United Kingdom recommended maximum of 89 dB (A), and all engines comply with our smoke regulations. We have a considerable advantage over our European competitors because the British regulations are the strictest in western Europe “.
He added that the truck would also cause less road damage than existing designs because of a different Leyland suspension system. The Marathon is powered by a new Leyland turbo-charged diesel engine producing 280 hp. It is also being offered with Rolls-Royce and Cummins engines of up to 335 hp. Articulated trucks operating in the United Kingdom at 28 tons and above are expected to increase by 100 per cent to some 6,000 machines a year by 1976.
The total European market for this sector is at present over 55,000 a year, and is forecast to increase by 3.6 per cent annually over the next five years. Marathon is being built at two plants. Guy Motors at Wolverhampton and AEC at Southall, Middlesex. European sales will begin early next year backed by 300 continental service points and a 24-hour spares service from two British parts depots. Ford and Bedford are also known to be developing super-heavy trucks.