The Times, 21 March 1968 : 1-Model US Drive By B.M.C.

1-Model US Drive By BMC

By GEOFFREY CHARLES, Motoring Correspondent

A concerted, one-model assault is to be launched on the United States car market today by the British Motor Corporation, with what they hope will prove an effective reply to the successful penetration achieved by Volkswagen and the Japanese manufacturers.

B.M.C. has produced a special two-door automatic saloon-basically its front-wheel-drive 1300-designed specifically for the United States market.

Labelled the Austin America, it complies with all the existing Federal and state regulations on safety and exhaust emission controls, and has been developed as a result of extensive market research to meet American buyers’ demands for a medium-priced two-door saloon as a second or third family car.

At $1,825 it is competitively priced (the secret of any success in a market where the big three American companies produce 9m.-I0m. cars a year) and compares with $1,699 for the Volkswagen, of which 400,000 units were sold in America last year.


Commentary

The ink was barely dry on the BMC – Leyland ‘merger’ and the Austin America was announced for the US market. A modified BMC 1300 Mk II, the car had obviously been developed under BMC due to the timescales involved, but no-doubt Donald Stokes was keen to launch this model to increase export sales in the potentially lucrative US market. The car was also offered in Canada and Switzerland.

It would have been a relatively low-cost development, and makes a lot of sense if you consider the success that Volkswagen had in the US in the 1960’s. The America was priced at a similar level to the VW which was also a 2-door, but the America was much more technically advanced.

The 1100/1300 was already a successful and proven design elsewhere, so it was a low-risk option as well. It’s just a pity that BMC waited 6-years after the cars launch to do this. The BMC 1100/1300 had been on sale in the US as an MG since 1962 (the year it launched in the UK), but had gained a poor reputation due to the underpowered 1100 engine and questionable build-quality. The MG version sold just 35,000 cars over 5 years. Switching to the Austin brand enabled a (somewhat) fresh start under a less specialised brand, although performance was still poor despite the extra 200cc (21-23 mpg and 19 seconds 0-60mph).

Some sources suggest that 59,000 America’s were sold, which is very poor compared to Volkswagen, but better than the MG version had sold. The America was replaced in 1972 by the Austin Marina, a federalised version of the Morris Marina. Although this model used the 1800cc engine, it was still badly affected by US emissions equipment, and sales were poor. The Austin Marina was withdrawn from the US market in 1975, presumably a rationalisation prompted by the upheaval that BLMC was facing at this time.

Here’s a link the Austin America website, should you wish to learn more: http://www.austinamericausa.com

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