Donald Stokes, Baron Stokes


Donald Stokes, Baron Stokes

Donald Gresham Stokes, Baron Stokes (22 March 1914 – 21 July 2008) was an English industrialist. He was the head of British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BL) from 1968 to 1975.

Contents

Life and career

Stokes was born in Plymouth, and educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton, Devon. In 1930 he commenced an engineering apprenticeship with Leyland Motors, which included further education at the Harris Institute of Technology in Preston. During the Second World War, Stokes served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Excepting the break for military service between 1939 and 1945, Stokes stayed with Leyland throughout his career. In 1968 he was appointed chairman and managing director of British Leyland, a challenging role much in the public eye at the time.

In 1977 Michael Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive at British Leyland, but Stokes remained on the board till 1979. Stokes was made a Life Peer in 1969 and sat as a Crossbencher in the House of Lords. By the time he died he had become the second eldest member.

On 13 June 1972 Stokes was made a Commandre de l'Ordre de Leopold II in recognition of his services to the Belgian economy. The ceremony took place at Seneffe (between Brussels and Mons) where a new extension to the British Leyland plant was being inaugurated.[1]

Lord Stokes died on July 21, 2008, aged 94.[2]

British Leyland under Stokes

Stokes was essentially a salesman, and while he successfully led Leyland-Triumph in the period up to 1968, never really got to grips with the scale and politics of British Leyland, which now incorporated BMC, Rover, Jaguar and related commercial vehicle brands. His efforts to bring in senior executives from competitors were only partially successful, and persistent infighting (such as the refusal of Triumph to accept the Rover V8 engine for the Stag convertible, and the discrimination against MG in allocating investment funding in favour of Triumph) sapped the competitive position of the new business.

Both before and during his period of leadership, the British motor industry suffered from poor profitability, which went hand in hand with chronic under-investment in production technologies and facilities. In 1975, towards the end of Stokes' time at the helm of the company, a journalist compared the published number of employees and the published number of cars produced by various auto-makers, Toyota produced 36 cars per employee while Honda produced nearly 23: BLMC produced slightly more than 4 car per employee in 1975 as against more than 7 for Ford's UK plants. Factors such as the variable extent of dependence on brought-in sub-assemblies made the comparison imperfect, but the continuing lack of profitability resulting from continuing failure to invest intelligently in up to date production processes was all too real.[3] This was a part of the background to BL's famously awful industrial relations during the 1970s. Characteristic BL introductions included the Morris Marina and Austin Allegro inspired respectively by the more thoughtfully developed and charismatic Ford Cortina and Citroën GS competitor products.

References

  1. ^ "Deeper into Europe". Autocar 136 (nbr 3975): pages 2–3. date 22 June 1972. 
  2. ^ "Lord Stokes: chairman of British Leyland". Times, The (London). July 22, 2008. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article4374427.ece. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  3. ^ "Japanese dumping: is it a fallacy?". The Motor: page 51. 29 May 1976. 

External links and sources

Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
Robert Lank Lickley
President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
1972
Succeeded by
Sir John William Atwell

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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