1956: The Engineer assesses a UK’s automobile attention in Geneva

The UK’s clever display during a 1956 Geneva Motor Show unsuccessful to facade a self-inflicted sadness befalling Britain’s carmakers

The 2018 book of a automotive showcase witnessed over 110 universe and European premieres alone, along with 180 exhibitors displaying their wares. By contrast, and only over a decade after a finish of a Second World War, a 1956 uncover hosted 82 creates of vehicle with a UK contributing 29 models to a line-up.

“This considerable series indicates that a British engine attention is entirely wakeful of a significance of a Swiss marketplace and, generally speaking, of a prerequisite to boost a trade expostulate on a Continent,” wrote The Engineer’s correspondent.

The Opel Kapitan

But while a UK had a numbers, they did not indispensably have a products that would concede them to contest with European manufacturers, privately those from a resurgent Germany, that was ‘probably a biggest engine exporter of a world’ by 1955.

Volkswagen in sole was singled out for reinvigorating marketplace seductiveness in a pre-war ‘people’s car’ – famous latterly as a VW Beetle – by building adult an organisation, charity inexpensive and simply accessible after-sales use and fixed-price maintenance, thereby substantiating a dealer-to-customer attribute equal to a best American standards.

“Further, deftly conducted promotion has severely assisted in expelling any wickedness formidable a owners of a small, inexpensive and not quite stylish vehicle competence feel, by stressing such points as trusty reliability, longevity and so on,” wrote a correspondent.

At a time of writing, VW were producing around 1,400 Beetles a day and had sole approximately 50,000 to Swiss business alone. In 1947 Britain sole 8,257 cars to Switzerland (30 per cent of demand) though by 1953 this had forsaken to 11 per cent and remained around that figure in a following dual years due mostly to a reappearance of continental competition. According to a correspondent, British firms were creation too many opposite models – overlapping one another in price, coming and opening – that were competing in a limited market. Furthermore, a multiplicity of car forms done it formidable to build adult an fit sales and use organization since dealers were demure to say some-more than an essential batch of spares.

“Ford and Vauxhall (represented by their American primogenitor companies), which, by a way, comment for about 75 per cent of all British exports to a European Continent, conduct a list of British importers to Switzerland, their total sales surpassing a sales of all other British firms by about 50 per cent,” combined a predecessor. “It contingency be mentioned, however, that GM and a Ford Motor Company, that also discharge a products of their German auxiliary companies, seem to find reduction sales insurgency in offered a German creates than a British ones.

“The Swiss Ford Company, for instance, final year sole 10 per cent some-more units of a Taunus than of 4 British models, and a General Motors Corporation sole eight-and-a-half times as many Opels as Vauxhalls.

“This rather distinguished inequality is partly due to a fact that many accessories and components, generally in a electric equipment, are to a good border stereotyped on a Continent, so that gangling tools and use comforts are accessible roughly everywhere.”

To devalue matters further, a UK’s automotive zone was viewed as carrying turn restored notwithstanding being reliant on exports. While British cars were seen as mechanically sound and reliable, a combined extras – once commercial in a comparatively uncompetitive marketplace – were apropos standard.

“Perhaps a many critical criticism, however, is done opposite a ubiquitous opinion of a British engine attention which, so far, has taken small seductiveness in a European marketplace and is still per suggestions from abroad as idle ill-conceived interference,” a match said.

“Swiss dealers, indeed, some-more or reduction indicate that British engine manufacturers seem to be some-more endangered in producing vehicles that business during ‘home’ in Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries are only calm to put adult with, than cars that are excusable to all universe markets.”

Another stumbling retard – among many – was a ubiquitous notice of British cars, that were seen as out of date.

“For this miss of beginning they censure a comparison era of vehicle constructors, that does not possess a artistic aptitude of a French designer, a systematic care of a German investigate workman nor a cultured talent of a Italian stylist,” resolved The Engineer’s contributor in Geneva.

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