By. Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland have run into technical problems with the new Leyland National bus, the first in the world to be built by mass production techniques similar to those employed in modern car plants. Lord Stokes, BLMC’s chairman, has described it as
“at least five years ahead of world competition”.
Now following complaints frorn operators and months of rumours in the industry, British Leyland have admitted that fires have occurred in 18 of the new buses and shock-absorber brackets have broken off. In addition, users claim that doors refused to close properly. the rear engine access door persists in opening on the road and the bus is generally so unreliable that in one National Bus Co depot up to 75 per cent of the Nationals were off the road at the same time for repairs.
Last week Mr Ron Ellis, managing director of BLMC’s truck and bus division, told Business News: “There have been some problems in commissioning this radically new machine in service. We have identified them and have developed solutions which wve are implementing.”
Problems With the National have been reported in the trade press. Mr Ellis replied to criticism voiced in Motor Transport, a leading commercial vehicle journal. In a published letter he said: “Being the first company to put such radical beliefs into practice is a courageous step. particularly when an investment of £10m had to be made before the first production machine could be delivered.”
On the fires, he said: “The facts are we are approaching the production of our 1000th vehicle and to date 18 fires have been reported. Of these 12 occurred in the buses of one operating company which took the very earliest machines produced. The cause was traced and modifications to the routing of the wiring loom have obviated this fault.”
Shock-absorber brackets had also been modified to overcome breakages. Mr Ellis concludes: “We are well aware of our problems. There are no secrets about them. Action is being taken as a priority and our customers are kept fully informed.”
The bulk of the 900 or so Nationals delivered have gone to the National Bus Company, which is BLMC’s partner in the new Leyland National factory at Workington. This is fortunate in a way because it means that the burden of the “customer development work ” has not been spread over the trade as a whole. Despite the early problems many transport engineers believe that the National will one day be a real winner. Not only does its integral manufacturing techniques make excellent sense against a background of worldwide inflation, but the concept offers new standards of passenger comfort, safety and quietness.