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British Leyland
Fate Nationalised in 1975.
Name changed to Rover Group in 1986.
Predecessor British Motor Holdings (BMH)
Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC)
Successor Rover Group
Leyland DAF
Founded 1968
Defunct 1986
Headquarters England, UK
Key people Lord Stokes
Michael Edwardes
Graham Day
Industry Car industry
Products 1948 Land Rover (Rover)
1968 Jaguar XJ6 (BLMC)
Rover 800-series/Sterling (ARG)
More here
Employees 250,000
Parent British Leyland Ltd from 1975 (later called BL Ltd, BL plc and finally Rover Group plc)

British Leyland was a vehicle manufacturing company formed in the United Kingdom in 1968 as British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC). It was partly nationalised in 1975 with the government creating a new holding company called British Leyland Ltd which became BL Ltd (later BL plc) in 1978. [1] [2] It incorporated much of the British owned motor vehicle industry, and held 40% of the UK car market,[3] with roots going back to 1895.

Despite containing profitable marques such as Jaguar, Rover and Land Rover, as well as the best-selling Mini, British Leyland had a troubled history.[4] In 1986 it was renamed as the Rover Group, later to become MG Rover Group, which went into administration in 2005, bringing an end to mass car production by British owned manufacturers — with MG becoming part of China's Nanjing Automobile.

Contents

History

BLMC was created in 1968 by the merger of British Motor Holdings (BMH) and Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC)[5], encouraged by Tony Benn as chairman of the Industrial Reorganisation Committee created by the Wilson Labour Government (1964–1970).[3] At the time, LMC was a successful manufacturer, while BMH was perilously close to collapse. The Government was hopeful LMC's expertise would revive the ailing BMH. The merger combined most of the remaining independent British car manufacturing companies and included car, bus and truck manufacturers and more diverse enterprises including construction equipment, refrigerators, metal casting companies, road surface manufacturers; in all, nearly 100 different companies. The new corporation was arranged into seven divisions under its new chairman, Sir Donald Stokes (formerly the chairman of LMC).

While BMH was the UK's largest car manufacturer (producing over twice as many cars as LMC), it offered a range of dated vehicles, including the Morris Minor which was introduced in 1948 and the Austin Cambridge and Morris Oxford, which dated back to 1959. After the merger, Lord Stokes was horrified to find that BMH had no plans to replace these elderly designs. Also, BMH's design efforts immediately prior to the merger had focused on unfortunate niche market models such as the Austin Maxi (which was underdeveloped and with an appearance hampered by using the doors from the larger Austin 1800) and the Austin 3 litre, which was a car with no discernible place in the market.

BMH had produced several successful cars, such as the Mini and the Austin/Morris 1100/1300 range (which at the time was the UK's biggest selling car). While these cars had been advanced at the time of their introduction, the Mini was not highly profitable and the 1100/1300 was facing more modern competition.

The lack of attention to development of new mass market models meant that BMH had nothing in the way of new models in the pipeline to effectively compete with popular rivals such as Ford's Escort and Cortina.

Immediately, Lord Stokes instigated plans to design and introduce new models quickly. The first result of this crash program was the Morris Marina in early 1971. It used parts from various BL models with new bodywork to produce BL's mass market competitor. It was one of the strongest selling cars in Britain during the 1970s, although by the end of production in 1980 it was widely regarded as a dismal product which had damaged the company's reputation. The Austin Allegro (replacement for the 1100/1300 ranges), launched in 1973, earned a similarly unwanted reputation over its 10-year production life.

old BLMC share

The company became an infamous monument to the industrial turmoil that plagued Britain in the 1970s. At its peak, BLMC owned nearly 40 different manufacturing plants across the country. Even before the merger BMH had included theoretically competing marques which were in fact selling substantially similar "badge engineered" cars. To this was added the competition from yet more, previously LMC marques. Rover competed with Jaguar at the expensive end of the market, and Triumph with its family cars and sports cars against Austin, Morris and MG. The result was a product range which was incoherent and full of duplication. In addition, in consequent attempts to establish British Leyland as a brand in consumers' minds in and outside the UK, print ads and spots were produced, causing confusion rather than attraction for buyers. This, combined with serious industrial relations problems (with trade unions), the 1973 oil crisis, the three-day week, high inflation, and ineffectual management meant that BL became an unmanageable and financially crippled behemoth which went bankrupt in 1975.

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1970s Restructuring

Sir Don Ryder was asked to undertake an enquiry into the position of the company, and his report, The Ryder Report, was presented to the government in April 1975. Following the report's recommendations, the organisation was drastically restructured and the Labour Government (1974–1979) took control by creating a new holding company British Leyland Limited (BL) of which the government was the major shareholder. The company was now organised into the following four divisions[6]:

  • Leyland Cars (later BL Cars) – the largest car manufacturer in the UK, employing some 128,000 people at 36 locations, and with a production capacity of one million vehicles per year.
  • Leyland Truck and Bus – the largest commercial and passenger vehicle manufacturer in the UK, employing 31,000 people at 12 locations, producing 38,000 trucks, 8,000 buses (including a joint venture with the National Bus Company) and 19,000 tractors per year. The tractors were based on the Nuffield designs, but built in a plant in Bathgate, Scotland.
British Leyland 270 tractor fitted with aftermarket loader in the USA.
  • Leyland Special Products – the miscellaneous collection of other acquired businesses, itself structured into five sub-divisions:
  • Leyland International – responsible for the export of cars, trucks and buses, and responsible for manufacturing plants in Africa, India and Australia, employing 18,000 people

There was positive news for BL at the end of 1976 when its new Rover SD1 executive car was voted European Car of the Year, having gained plaudits for its innovative design. The SD1 was actually the first step that British Leyland took towards rationalising its passenger car ranges, as it was a single car replacing two cars that competed in the same sector — the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000.

In 1977 Sir Michael Edwardes was appointed Chief Executive[7] and Leyland Cars was split up into Austin Morris (the volume car business) and Jaguar Rover Triumph (JRT) (the specialist or upmarket division). Austin Morris included MG. Land Rover and Range Rover were later separated from JRT to form the Land Rover Group. JRT later split up into Rover-Triumph and Jaguar Car Holdings (which included Daimler)

BLCV

In 1978 the company formed a new group for its commercial vehicle interests, BL Commercial Vehicles (BLCV) under managing director David Abell. The following companies moved under this new umbrella:

  • Leyland Vehicles Limited (trucks, tractors and buses)
  • Alvis Limited (military vehicles)
  • Coventry Climax Limited (fork lift trucks and specialist engines)
  • Self-Changing Gears Limited (heavy-duty transmissions)

BLCV and the Land Rover Group later merged to become Land Rover Leyland.

BL Ltd

In 1979 British Leyland Ltd was renamed to simply BL Ltd (later BL plc) and its subsidiary which acted as a holding company for all the other companies within the group The British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd to BLMC Ltd.[8]

BL's fortunes took another much-awaited rise in October 1980 with the launch of the Austin Metro, a modern three-door hatchback which gave buyers a more modern and practical alternative to the iconic but ageing Mini. This went on to be one of the most popular cars in Britain of the 1980s.

In 1982 most of the car division became the Austin Rover Group marking the end of the Morris and Triumph marques although Jaguar and Daimler remained in a separate company called Jaguar Car Holdings.

A rationalisation of the model ranges also took place around this time. In 1980, British Leyland was still producing four cars in the large family car sector — the Leyland Princess, Austin Maxi, Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite. But the Dolomite was discontinued in August that year in a move that saw the Canley plant closed, with the Austin Maxi also being axed a year later. The Morris Marina became the Ital in August 1980 following a major facelift, and a year later the Leyland Princess received a similar upgrade to become the Austin Ambassador, meaning that the 1982 range had just two competitors in this sector. In April 1984, these cars were discontinued to make way for a single all-new model, the Austin Montego.

Jaguar sale

In 1984 Jaguar Cars became independent once more, through a public sale of its shares. Ford subsequently acquired Jaguar. In 1986 BL changed its name to Rover Group and in 1987 the Trucks Division – Leyland Vehicles merged with the Dutch DAF company to form DAF NV, trading as Leyland DAF in the UK and as DAF in the Netherlands. In 1987 the bus business was spun-off into a new company called Leyland Bus. This was the result of a management buyout who decided to sell the company to the Bus & Truck division of Volvo in 1988.

Rover Group sale

In 1988 the remaining Rover Group business was sold by the British Government to British Aerospace (BAe). They subsequently sold the business to BMW, which, after initially seeking to retain the whole business, decided to only retain the Cowley operations for MINI production and close the Longbridge factory. Longbridge, along with the Rover and MG marques, was taken on by MG Rover which went into administration in April 2005. All MG (formerly MG/Rover) Products are now Made In China for the Chinese market by Nanjing. Nanjing have demolished the Longbridge site all but for a very small section, which is used to assemble the Chinese MG TF from complete knock down (CKD) for the European market (i.e. the whole car is Chinese-made, but it is partially disassembled, before being reassembled at Longbridge to avoid certain European Union taxes); this small operation employs 50 people. As only a negligible number of parts are made in Europe (oil sumps), this operation does not support many if any jobs outside the 'assembly operation' elsewhere in the UK or Europe, unlike in 1993 when 29,000 UK jobs and many other European jobs were supported by Rover.

Many of the brands were divested over time and continue to exist on the books of several companies to this day.

Timelines

Notes for the timeline table

  • The car brands of BSA were divested, BSA was not merged into Jaguar.
  • Mini was not originally a marque in its own right. See Mini and MINI (BMW) for more detail.
  • The BMC trademark is registered (1564704, E1118348) to MG Rover Group Ltd in the UK. BMC is also the name of a commercial vehicle manufacturer in Turkey, formerly the Turkish subsidiary of the British Motor Corporation. It is believed that Nanjing Automotive may have purchased this from MG Rover, however the brand has not been re-assigned as of 17 July 2006.
  • The Wolseley trademark is registered (UK 1490228) to MG Rover Group Ltd for automobiles only. It is believed that Nanjing Automotive may have purchased this from MG Rover, however the brand has not been -reassigned as of July 2006 to a different company. The UK building materials supplier Wolseley plc owns the rights to the Wolseley name for all other purposes. Wolseley plc is a descendant of the original Wolseley company.
  • The Vanden Plas trademark is owned by Ford (through Jaguar) for use within the USA and Canada, and as (UK 1133528, E2654481) to MG Rover Group Ltd for use in the rest of the world. It is believed that Nanjing Automotive may have purchased this from MG Rover, however the trademark has not been recorded as reassigned as of 17 July 2006. This is why Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas models are branded as Daimlers in Britain. The last Rover to use the Vanden Plas name was the Rover 75 Vanden Plas, a long wheelbase limousine model.
  • The Rover trademark was owned by BMW and was only licenced to MG Rover Group Ltd. BMW sold the brand to Ford in September 2006.
  • Alvis was purchased from British Leyland by United Scientific Holdings plc in 1981, in 2002 Alvis merged with part of Vickers Defence Systems to form Alvis Vickers which was purchased by BAE Systems in 2004. BAE Systems did not acquire Alvis through their ownership of the Rover Group in the early 1990s. Production of Alvis branded cars ceased in 1967. The trademark is owned by Alvis Vehicles Ltd
  • The use of the Triumph name as a trademark for vehicles is shared between BMW and Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. The former for automobiles and the latter for motorcycles. The motorcycle and car business separated in the 1930s.

Merged companies

The car firms (and car brands) which eventually merged to form the company are as follows.

The dates given are those of the first car of each name, but these are often debatable as each car may be several years in development.

Other merger events

Several of these names (including Jaguar, Land Rover and Mini) are now in other hands. The history of the mergers and other key events is as follows:

Divestments

  • 1969 The last Riley Elf, 1300, and 4/72 models were built, thus ending the Riley marque
  • 1975 Innocenti passed to Alejandro de Tomaso
  • 1976 Final Wolseley, a 2200, is built, thus ending the Wolseley marque
  • 1978 Land Rover separated from Rover to form a separate company, still part of BL
  • 1979 Collaboration with Honda begins, sacking of Derek Robinson ("Red Robbo")
  • 1978 Closure of Triumph assembly plant in Speke - production moved to Canley
  • 1980 Closure of MG and Triumph assembly plants in Abingdon and Canley
  • 1981 Closure of Rover-Triumph plant in Solihull
  • 1981 Alvis sold to United Scientific Holdings and Alvis plc formed
  • 1982 Michael Edwardes steps down as Chairman, BL Cars Ltd renamed Austin Rover Group (ARG)
  • 1982 Leyland Tractors sold to Marshall Tractors, tractor production at Bathgate assembly plant ends
  • 1983 Closure of Bristol bus plant, production transferred to Leyland National plant at Workington
  • 1984 Morris Ital goes out of production, signalling the end of the Morris badge
  • 1984 Jaguar floated off (including Daimler and the US rights to Vanden Plas); bought by Ford in 1989
  • 1984 Final Triumph Acclaim rolls off the production line, ending the Triumph name
  • 1985 Closure of Bathgate truck assembly plant
  • 1986 BL plc renamed Rover Group, Austin badges disappear the following year
  • 1986 Leyland Bus floated off; bought by Volvo in 1988
  • 1987 Leyland Trucks division (including Freight Rover vans) merged with DAF to form DAF NV/Leyland DAF. Vans became independent as LDV in 1993, as did Trucks as Leyland Trucks. Leyland Trucks was taken over by US giant PACCAR in 1998 and integrated with Foden.
  • 1987 Unipart, BL's spare parts division acquired by management buy-out
  • 1988 Rover Group privatised; sold to British Aerospace
  • 1994 Rover Group sold to BMW; collaboration with Honda ends
  • 1994 Maestro and Montego go out of production.
  • 1998 Metro/100-series goes out of production - the last of the former Austin models.
  • 2000 BMW decides to break up and sell the Rover empire; Land Rover sold to Ford
  • 2000 BMW MINI, Triumph, and Riley trademarks retained by BMW, but BMW's other interests sold off
  • 2000 Remainder of company became independent as the MG Rover Group
  • 2005 MG Rover goes into administration with huge debts, and is taken over by Nanjing Automobile.[9]
  • 2006 Ford acquires the rights to the Rover brand name from BMW, though without any immediate plans for using it on production cars.[10].
  • 2008 Ford completes the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors, of India

List of notable BL and BMC and related models (up to 1986)

A small British Leyland badge on one of their many products.

Competing models

In some cases, British Leyland continued to produce competing models from the merged companies at different sites for many years. However, any benefits from the broader number of models were far outweighed by higher development costs and greatly reduced economies of scale.

Sadly, potential benefits associated with rationalising parts usage were lost, as for example, the company made two completely different 1.3 litre engines (BMC A series and the Triumph 1.3 litre), two different 1.5 litre engines (BMC E series and Triumph), four different 2 litre engines (4 cylinder O series, 4 cylinder Triumph Dolomite, 4 cylinder Rover and 6 cylinder Triumph) and two completely different V8 engines (Triumph OHC 3 litre V8 and Rover 3.5 litre V8).

Examples of competing cars were:

Badge-engineered models

In contrast to the continued development of competing models, British Leyland continued the practice of badge engineering of models which had started under BMC; selling essentially the same vehicle under two (or more) different marques.

Principal UK factories

This list is incomplete.

See also

References

  1. ^ A Catalogue of the Papers of Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd
  2. ^ British Leyland Motor Corporation, Ltd. - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  3. ^ a b BBC NEWS | Politics | The politics of building cars
  4. ^ Austin Rover Online
  5. ^ Alan Pilkington, Transforming Rover, Renewal against the Odds, 1981-94, (1996), Bristol Academic Press, Bristol, pp.199, ISBN 0951376233
  6. ^ BL Booklet - Graduate opportunities with British Leyland
  7. ^ Michael Edwardes arrives
  8. ^ http://members.fortunecity.com/routeman68/history.htm - Leyland Truck & Bus
  9. ^ Unknown MG Fan asks: NAC MG, Success or failure? Part 2 at China Car Times
  10. ^ "Rover brand name passes to Ford". BBC. 2006-09-19. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/5358590.stm.  
  11. ^ British Car Linage
  12. ^ Bardsley, Gillian; Laing, Stephen. Making Cars at Cowley. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-3902-2.  

External links


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