Thursday, April 19, 2012

British Leyland: Chronicle of a Car Crash

My son, John, was kind enough to give me a basic Kindle recently for no apparent reason other than his generous nature. Amazon produces several versions of this e-reader whereby the owner can purchase electronic copies of books, magazines and even newspaper subscriptions. Mine is the simplest version, ideal for the old dog to learn new tricks.One of the first books in my electronic library is British Leyland: Chronicle of a Car Crash 1968-1978 by Christopher Cowin.

The book is available only in electronic format and can be purchased for your device from Amazon for $6.50. This is the my first experience with a volume that cannot currently be had in print form but I understand that this is the wave of the future for works of limited public interest. While the printed version will not likely happen, the ability to e-publish is a boon to authors who wish to share - and sell - their work.

Chronicle of a Car Crash is written in a scholarly tone and charts the creation of the huge British Leyland conglomerate through the efforts of the British government. If you're looking for road test results or driving impressions of the cars we know and love, you won't find it here. Rather, you will learn about the people and firms behind the erstwhile auto giant and see how the deck was stacked against the success of the company literally from its inception.

Seeing that the economics of auto production favored automakers who could produce literally millions of cars per year, the British government decided that, in order to preserve the domestic auto industry, it had to arrange several shotgun marriages to create a true world-class player to take on the growing Japanese threat. As most British car enthusiasts know, British Motor Holdings and Leyland merged under pressure and incentive of the government. Until I read this book, I was unaware that Her Majesty's Government worked very hard to bring the Rootes Group into the fold as well. 

Chronicle of a Car Crash is not a rehash of history or a finger-pointing screed, but a concise, deeply researched work about the slow motion death of a nation's auto industry. The book is very possibly worth purchasing an e-reader just to read it.     

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