May 30, 2007


Andrew Marr’s short history series currently airing on BBC TV is moving along at a cracking pace. His light touch is just about right for what could otherwise be a turgid trudge through British history since the end of World War Two.
I was particularly taken by yesterday's short anecdote about the Austin Mini. In a few short minutes he demonstrated how a brand can so neatly encapsulate its time.
This is the ad he used as illustration.

What I didn’t realise was that the launch of the tiny, economical car in 1959 – desperately needed because of fuel rationing in the wake of the Suez crisis – was at first a flop. It took a simple piece of publicity – giving a Mini to the newly married Princess Margaret – that started the snowball rolling. Soon, the celebs of the day were seeing driving it, and the car took off.
Marr revealed that the brand wiped the floor with the opposition by selling at £350 for the basic model in 1960. Having just flicked my abacus, I find that this amounts to around £5,500 in today’s money. To put this into context, a brand new bottom of the range Mini today costs £11,600.
Why the ridiculously low price?
Austin didn’t do their sums – the car was sold at a loss and the decline of the British motor industry was assured.
No wonder Britain needed cheering up.

1 comment:

Amelia said...

This is the best TV that I have seen for bloody ages! Roll on the DVD box set...