After the kicking that the public and the media had given British Leyland over the Allegro, Princess and Marina, this was genuinely
good news for the Company, but as usual, trouble lurked, not far away. Rover had committed the cardinal sin of not making enough
examples to satisfy the demand for the new car. To be fair, no-one within British Leyland had expected the rush to buy the new car,
but at the same time, the P6B was a very successful car and the SD1 was so "right" in design and execution that it shouldn't have
come as a surprise that people were going to be clamouring for the new car.The sitution was also excerbated by the BL-wide tool-makers
strike in the early months of 1977 - domestic supplies were drastically cut, but more disastrously when the SD1 was put on sale in the
EEC in March 1977, riding high on the good publicity from the CotY award and generally excellent press reports, the dealers had no stock
which to sell. Derek Whittaker appealed to the sensibilities of the rogue workers, who he said, were costing the company profits
- big profits - by not allowing the company to build the car that people across Europe so patently wanted to buy. Again, the company
had shot themselves in the foot - all the good pre-launch publicity in the EEC amounted to nothing as people soon associated BL with
strikes and non-production.
But things went downhill rapidly for Rover with build problems rearing their ugly head again and reports filtering back rapidly
from unhappy customers of tales of woe concerning their cars reliability. These centred mainly on the electrical system, but beyond
that, there were innumerable paintwork and fit/finish problems reported too - it seemed that the products of new assembly lines at
Solihull were not subject to any meaningful quality control methods. The sheen of a successful launch was so tarnished by these problems
- and being a British Leyland product, these problems were highly newsworthy, so public perception of just how fine a car the 3500 was,
were soon changed from admiration of an excellent car to disdain for an unreliable one.
Soon the dealers were marking down the trade-in values of the 3500 and the unreliable reputation that the car quickly gained had
stuck. As Lancia in the UK will tell you, once you get a bad reputation in the UK, it stays with you for years.