By Clifford Webb
Leyland Vehicles, the truck and bus arm of BL, today launches its most important new truck for more than a decide. Called Roadtrain, it wiill operate up to 40 tonnes gross vehicle weight and is the basis of an entire range planned for the next four years.
Mr David Abell, chairman and managing director of LV, is hoping that Roadtrain will halt the steady erosion of the home market by importers led by Volvo, the Swedish group. In the past seven years Leyland’s share has fallen from 30 per cent to 17.5 per cent. Mr Abell is also hoping that Roadtrain’s arrival after 18 months of speculation will boost the image of Leyland Vehicles, which has taken a battering from the overall problems of BL and more particularly from the crisis ridden cars side.
Roadtrain is aimed at the most profitable sector, the over 28 tonne “premium” articulated truck market where Volvo, Scania, Mercedes, Iveco, Seddon Atkinson (International Harvester), ERF, and others are all offering more modern designs at competitive prices. Last year this sector accounted for more than 11 per cent of total United Kingdom truck sales. Leyland’s share of the 9,000 sold was a depressing 600. Mr Abell is gambling that Roadtrain with its aerodynamicallv shaped cab, reducing wind drag by 30per cent, and a more economical engine, will hold the line until further new designs can be brought in. Quoted retail prices mean little in the truck business. Every sale is a ” one-off ” deal loaded with discounts and other attractions.
But at £24,995 Roadtrain is carefully priced below the £26,000 quoted for a Volvo F10 to give Leyland dealers a starting edge. Cab design and driver acceptability have become increasingly important in clinching sales. Leyland’s new C40 cab replaces six existing cabs. It will eventually be used throughout the new truck family stretching from 6.5 tonnes to 65 tonnes. The key to its hoped for success is the wide use of common components with each derivative using at least 80 of the 125 tooled components. The Design Council yesterday timely awarded the cab one of its awards. Initial production of Roadtrain will be aimed at the domestic market. But Mr Abell emphasizes that within 18 months it will also be going on to the Continent in volume.
Roadtrain is being built in a new £31m assembly plant at Leyland, Lancashire, part of a £360m investment programme which is about half completed. The plant has capacity to produce 250 Roadtrains and other derivatives weekly.