EX­PORT DRIVE: BMC AND BRITISH LEY­LAND CARS IN EUROPE AND THE WORLD 1945–85

New Zealand Classic Car - - AUTOMOBILIA -

Chris Cowin

Pub­lished 2015 Re­viewer’s own copy ISBN 978-1-511936613

Re­viewed by: Mark Hol­man The ti­tle of this large soft­cover book might sound a bit dry, but it’s one of the best in­dus­try his­to­ries that I’ve read. I only wish that I’d come across it sooner so that this re­view was more cur­rent.

Building the book around the many mar­ques that made up British Ley­land in its var­i­ous guises af­ter World War II, with a fo­cus on Austin and Mor­ris, au­thor Cowin cov­ers the whole scene and the dif­fi­cul­ties these brands faced — or cre­ated for them­selves. For a few years af­ter World War II, car-starved mar­kets ac­cepted British cars read­ily, and Em­pire/com­mon­wealth Pref­er­ence tar­iff ar­range­ments helped in a num­ber of mar­kets. That sit­u­a­tion changed quite quickly, though.

Within these 188 pages, you’ll find all the mod­els and their suit­abil­ity (or, of­ten, lack of); per­son­al­i­ties; mar­kets; and the im­pact of things like ex­change-rate fluc­tu­a­tions, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions, in­dus­trial re­la­tions within the car com­pa­nies or their sup­pli­ers, end­less re­struc­tur­ing within the UK com­pa­nies and their overseas sub­sidiaries (which af­fected many deal­ers), poor spares and ser­vice, in­vest­ment de­ci­sions, frag­mented model ranges, wildly op­ti­mistic mar­ket fore­casts, and com­pe­ti­tion from Europe and Ja­pan, etc. Some­times, the com­pany was unlucky, too; for in­stance, the re­ver­sal of the US decision to ‘out­law’ con­vert­ibles came too late for BMC to change a num­ber of mar­ket de­ci­sions it had put in place.

In­di­vid­ual mar­kets, lo­cal as­sem­bly and sup­ply, and British Ley­land’s (usu­ally un­ful­filled) hopes for these also get plenty of cov­er­age, from New Zea­land and South Africa to the US, Ire­land, and Den­mark.

As well as the broader pic­ture, the book is full of fas­ci­nat­ing snip­pets that help ex­plain a lot. One ex­am­ple: when the Jaguar XJ-S was prov­ing pop­u­lar in Ger­many, deal­ers were told that they could only be sup­plied with one if they also took 10 Mor­ris Mari­nas!

This is a large soft­cover book with about 60 black-and-white pho­tos and ad­verts. I was able to find a rea­son­ably priced copy on Trade Me. Well worth look­ing for!

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