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From the archive: Lawmakers kill compact cars



“The ‘buzz box’ description of the small car has been developed into the slick similes of the backbenchers in recent Parliamentary debates,” we complained. “It is time that someone rose to defend the quiet, able and handy little Eight.”

But why would such over-rationalisation happen? We explained: “From the manufacturers’ point of view, the one-model policy may have a decided advantage; without full knowledge of the intimate and secret details of production costs, it is impossible to tell. The major expense of car production lies in tooling up. An outlay is made of so many thousand pounds – it can easily be millions – and that overhead cost is spread over the batch of cars which the machine tools will produce before they wear out, or before the model becomed outdated. But if the batch is to be very large, it is necessary to duplicate the machines, and the question then arises as to whether the new machine tools should produce the same car or another model.

“Production figures for the next five years at least are likely to approximate to those which are being compared now – 27,496 cars in May. Reasons against a vast expansion of output are familiar. Number one is coal. On coal depends steel and a host of other things.

“The manufacturer’s problem, therefore, is whether on present figures and other factors in his organisation it is necessar to duplicate his machine tools, and if so, whether he shall duplicate a single car model or have to strings to his bow. 

“In that case, this journal unhesitatingly advises the makers to think twice about dropping the smallest cars which are listed at the moment – the Eights.

“It is at this point that the views if the owner become important – not the overseas owner, but the home owner. Any manufacturer who plans his production with an eye solely on overseas markets is heading for bankruptcy in these days of shifting economic and political sands. Who would have thought a year ago, for instance, that half the world would close its doors against British cars?

“The home owner is going to be a poor man for some years. A nation’s wealth lies in its production of goods, not of paper currency. The infaltionary surplus of today must lead to one of two things before many months are past – if it is not to get out of hand; increased taxation or higher prices, most probably the latter. And at the same time, the Government must balance the external trading account, most likely by drastic pruning of exports. The standard of living is therefore going to drop sharply, living everyone poorer.

“Against the credit of a few pounds saved on annual taxation [for larger cars] by the flat rate must be debited increased insurance, higher garaging costs, bigger fuel consumption, lower tyre life, more expensive servicing and repairs, and often greater depreciation in value.

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