II COMMENT AIR CLEAR
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• There must be an enormous temptation within Leyland, Land Rover and Freight Rover to sigh with relief and say. "Well, at least that's cleared the air — now we can get on with doing what we're meant to be doing, making and selling vehicles." After all, the Government has abandoned, for the meantime at least, its plans to sell one or more of the companies.
From a purely operational point of view, that sigh of relief is right: freed of the threat of a disturbance in their lives, the various BL managers can and should get on with what they are there for — and what they want to do.
They must carry on, however, in a climate significantly worse than the one in which they operated before. By its ham-fisted dealing with the whole business after the General Motors bid was publicly admitted, the Government has done nothing to help the revivals of any of the BL companies. To have prospective bidders picking over the finer points of the companies in public — and even worse, to have rival bidders outdoing each other in their claims and the gravity of their assessments of Leyland's condition — does nothing for the morale of Leyland people, and does even less for their prospects of selling vehicles.
That Leyland has had its best three months in the market for years reflects a great deal more credit on the company's managment, workforce and distributors than it does on the company's principal shareholder, which yet again has been found wanting.
This time, of course, the Government's ineptitude and lack of resolution has harmed not just one organisation but two. The second one is an organisation in which the Government doesn't even have a shareholding — Bedford. The result of all the dithering of the last couple of months is that everybody at Bedford is left having to restore morale in an organisation some of whose plants have had their future questioned and some of whose products have been roundly condemned.
The motor industry has enough problems in coping with the routine effect of government without it having to cope with the irregular and illogical as it is having to now. It can only be hoped that if there is any lasting damage to come from the whole sorry LeylandiGM debacle it falls on the heads of the politicians who caused it rather than the companies which endured it. It must also be hoped that when — not if — the opportunity to rationalise the British or European truck industries comes round again, it will be treated as a serious business, and not an opportunity for cheap politicking. The industry and its customers deserve that in the very least.
• This weekend sees one of the most important events in the 1986 haulage industry calendar — Commercial Motor Truckfest. On Sunday and Monday (May 4 and 5) the East of England Showground at Peterborough will he host to the largest collection of trucks — new and old, working or for show — to be seen anywhere in Britain.
The idea behind Truckfest is, as the name suggests, that it will be a festival of trucking, an occasion when people from all parts of the industry can get together to look at, talk about, compete with and generally enjoy trucks. It is an occasion when everybody can take a slightly lighter look at the industry than the normal hard-nosed commercial one which is needed to keep a haulage business or one of its supplier businesses running. It is also an occasion for people to do serious business, an occasion when we can bring together the trade and its customers in a more attractive setting than the average motor show.
Above all, however, Commercial Motor Truckfest is an opportunity for everybody in the industry to get out on a Bank Holiday weekend and enjoy themselves — we hope to see you there.