British motor industry

British motor industry


The beginnings 1896–1900

The British motor industry started when Frederick Simms became friends with Gottlieb Daimler, who had, in 1885, patented a design for an internal combustion engine. Simms bought the patent Samuel's rights for the engine and in 1893 he founded a company, "The Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd", to build boats using the engine. In 1895 Harry J. Lawson bought-out Simms' interests in the engine, after realising its potential for road vehicle use. Lawson bought a site in Coventry my car engine and chassis manufacture, and on 1896-01-14 founded the Daimler Motor Company there which made Britain's first serial production car. [cite web
title=Daimler: History

Early motor vehicle development in the UK was hindered by a series of laws introduced during the 19th century, referred to as the Red Flag Act. These laws severely restricted the use of mechanically propelled vehicles on the public highway. Following intense lobbying from motor vehicle enthusiasts, including Harry J. Lawson of Daimler, the worst restrictions of these acts, (the need for each vehicle to be accompanied by a crew of three, and a convert|2|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on speed limit in towns), was lifted by the "Locomotives on Highways Act 1896". Under this regulation, "light locomotives" (those vehicles under 3 tons unladen weight) were exempt from the previous restrictions, and a higher speed limit - convert|14|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on was set for them. To celebrate the new freedoms, Lawson organised the Emancipation Run, which was held on 1896-11-14, and has been commemorated since 1927 by the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.cite book |author=Setright, L. J. K. |title=Drive On!: A Social History of the Motor Car |publisher=Granta Books |year=2004 |id=ISBN 1-86207-698-7]

The stabilisation 1900–1918

The early British vehicles of the late 19th century relied mainly upon developments from Germany and France. By 1900 however, the first all-British 4-wheel car was designed and built by Herbert Austin as an employee of the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company (later becoming the Wolseley Motor Company) in Birmingham.cite book
author=Church, Roy
title=The rise and decline of the British motor industry
publisher=Cambridge University Press
id=ISBN 0-521-55770-4

The pioneering car producers, many of them from the bicycle industry, got off to a shaky start. Of the 200 British makes of car that had been launched up until 1913, only about 100 of the firms were still in existence. In 1910 UK vehicle production was 14,000 units. By 1913 Henry Ford had built a new factory in Manchester and was the leading UK producer, building 7310 cars that year, followed by Wolseley at 3000, Humber (making cars since 1898 in Coventry) at 2500, Rover (Coventry car maker since 1904) at 1800 and Sunbeam (producing cars since 1901) at 1700, with the plethora of smaller producers bringing the 1913 total up to about 16,000 vehicles.cite book
title=The Motor Men
author=King, Peter
publisher=Quiller Press
id=ISBN 1-870948-23-8

trong growth 1918–1939

Car production virtually came to an end during the war years 1914–1918, but the pressure of war production encouraged the development of mass-production techniques in the motor industry. By 1922 there were 183 motor companies in the UK, and by 1929, following the slump years, there were 58 companies remaining.cite book |last=Baldwin |first=N. |title=A-Z of Cars of the 1920s|year=1994 |publisher=Bay View Books |location=Devon, UK |id=ISBN 1-870979-53-2] In 1929 production was dominated by Morris (founded by William Morris in 1910 in Oxford) and Austin (founded by Herbert Austin in Longbridge in 1905 after he left Wolseley) who between them produced 60% of the UK output. Singer (Coventry motorcycle manufacturer started building cars in 1905) followed in third place that year with 15% of production.

In 1932 Britain overtook France as Europe's largest car producer (a position it stayed in until 1955). By 1937 the UK was producing 380,000 vehicles per annum. To celebrate the granting of his peerage, William Morris upon becoming Viscount Nuffield, reorganised his motor vehicle companies in 1938, which by then included not only Morris Motors and MG, but also Wolseley and Riley (bicycle company founded in Coventry in 1890 and making cars since 1913), into the Nuffield Organisation. In 1939 the top producers were Morris: 27%, Austin: 24%, Ford: 15%, Standard (founded in Coventry in 1903): 13%, Rootes (which had acquired Humber and Sunbeam): 11%, Vauxhall (building cars since 1903, acquired by GM in 1925): 10%.

World dominance 1939–1955

During World War II car production gave way to commercial and military vehicle production, and many motor vehicle plants were used for aircraft and aero engine production. Following the war the government controlled the supply of steel, and priority was given to supplying foreign-revenue-raising export businesses. In 1947 steel was available only to businesses with 75% of production being exported. This, coupled with the inevitable limited competition from Europe, and with demand for new vehicles in America and in Australia being greater than the American industry alone could supply, resulted in British vehicle exports reaching record levels. Britain became the world's biggest motor vehicle exporter. In 1937 Britain provided 15% of world vehicle exports, by 1950, a year in which 75% of British car production and 60% of its commercial vehicle production was exported, Britain provided 52% of the world's exported vehicles. This situation remained until the mid-1950s, by which time the American industry production had caught up with American demand, and European production was recovering. By 1952 the American owned producers in the UK (Ford and GM's Vauxhall) had between them a 29% share of the British market, which exceeded the share of either of Britain's top two manufacturers. It was in that context that Viscount Nuffield agreed to the merger of his company, the Nuffield Organisation, with Austin, to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Thus BMC, comprising Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley was formed in 1952 and commanded a 40% share of the British market. German production was increasing yearly, and by 1953 it had exceeded that of France, and by 1956 it had overtaken that of Britain.

Meltdown 1955–1968

By 1955 five companies produced 90% of Britain's motor vehicle output: BMC, Ford, Rootes, Standard-Triumph and Vauxhall. Of the dozen or so small producers Rover and Jaguar were strong niche producers. During 1960 Britain dropped from being the world's second largest motor vehicle producer into third place. Labour-intensive methods, and wide model ranges hindered opportunities to reduce manufacturing costs - Britain's unit costs were higher than those of their major European and American competitors.cite book
title=The British Motor Industry 1945-1994
author=Timothy R. Whisler
publisher=Oxford University Press
id=ISBN 0-19-829074-8
] Although rationalisation of motor vehicle companies had started, full integration did not occur. BMC continued to produce vehicles under the marque names of its incorporated companies, many of which competed with each other.cite book
title=Twentieth Century Industrial Archaeology
author=Michael Stratton
publisher=Spon Press
id=ISBN 0419246800
] Standard-Triumph's attempts to reduce costs by embracing a modern volume production strategy almost led to their bankruptcy in 1960, the result was that they were purchased by the commercial vehicle manufacturing company Leyland Motors. In 1966, BMC and Jaguar came together, to form British Motor Holdings (BMH). Leyland had achieved some sales success with Leyland-Triumph and in 1967 it acquired Rover. By 1966 Britain had slipped to become the world's fourth largest motor vehicle producer. Following a gradual process which had began in 1964, Chrysler UK (CUK) had fully acquired Rootes by 1967.In the context of BMC's wide, complex, and expensive-to-produce model range, and Ford's conventionally designed Cortina challenging the number one spot in the domestic market, and the heavy reliance of the British economy on motor vehicle production, in 1968 the Government brokered the merger of the successful Leyland-Triumph-Rover and the struggling BMH, to form Europe's fourth largest car maker, the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). The new company announced its intention to invest in a new volume car range, and to equip its factories with the latest capital-intensive production methods. Notable British cars of this era included the 1959 Mini — designed by Alec Issigonis for the British Motor Corporation, and Malcolm Sayer's 1961 E-type Jaguar.

tate support 1968–1977

By 1968 UK motor vehicle production was dominated by four companies: BLMC, Chrysler (UK), Ford, and Vauxhall (GM). The national champion, BLMC, was handicapped in its attempts to modernise by internal rivalries. Unattractive new products, retention of legacy marques and models, labour disputes, quality issues, supplier problems and inefficient use of new equipment thwarted the dream of efficient high volume production. Increased overseas competition, arising from lowered tariffs and membership of the European Union, and high unit costs, led to low profits, which in turn jeopardised investment plans. BLMC's share of the UK market dropped from 40% to 32% between 1971 and 1973.By 1974 Britain's position as a world motor vehicle manufacturer had dropped to sixth place. In 1974 both BLMC and Chrysler UK appealed to the Government for financial help. The Government rejected the idea of a BLMC/CUK merger, and instead CUK received a loan and BLMC was subjected to a series of studies to determine its future. The Government's official BLMC enquiry, led by Lord Ryder, suggested that BLMC's strategy was sound, but required huge Government investment to improve productivity by providing mechanisation and improving labour relations. Despite the effective nationalisation of BLMC as British Leyland (BL) in 1975, the recovery never happened. Chrysler sold its European interests (including those in the UK) to Peugeot in 1977, to allow it to concentrate on its own difficulties in America. The UK interests were renamed Peugeot-Talbot.cite book |title=Rival Capitalists |author=Jeffrey A. Hart |publisher=Cornell University Press |year=1993 |id=ISBN 0801499496]

Rationalisation and collaboration 1977–1986

By the end of the 1970s Ford, Peugeot-Talbot and Vauxhall (GM) were well integrated with their parent companies' other European operations. BL stood alone in the UK as an increasingly junior player. As part of the drive for increased productivity in the late 1970s, BL reduced its workforce and number of plants, and strived to centralise its management activities. In 1979 BL struck a collaboration deal with Honda to share the development and production of a new mid-sized car (Triumph Acclaim/Honda Ballade). The new car combined Honda engine and transmission designs with a BL body. Although the UK political scene changed in 1979 with the election of the Thatcher government, the Government continued to support BL with funds for the development of a new mass-market model range (Mini Metro, Maestro, Montego and another Honda collaboration the Rover 800). Car assembly, with the exception of Jaguars, was concentrated into two central plants - Longbridge and Cowley. In July 1986 BL was renamed the Rover Group.

Foreign influence 1987 - 2000

In July 1986, Nissan became the first Japanese carmaker to set up a production facility in Europe, when it opened a new plant in Sunderland.Fact} The plant initially produced just the Bluebird and from 1990 its successor, the Primera - until the launch of the MK2 Micra in 1992.Fact|date=August 2008

Peugeot started production of the 309 hatchback at Ryton in January 1986, followed by the 405 at the end of 1987.Fact|date=August 2008 As the decade progressed, 306 and 206 ranges were also produced at Ryton.Fact|date=August 2008

Honda's venture with Austin Rover and the post-1989 Rover Group saw a number of different designs shared between the two marques. The venture finished in February 1994 when Rover Group ownership was transferred from British Aerospace to German carmaker BMW.Fact|date=August 2008 For the first time in some 90 years, Britain was without an independent mass production carmaker.Fact|date=August 2008 BMW's ownership of the Rover Group saw the development of several newer, more upmarket models, giving the British brand an image to match that of its parent company. BMW also revived the MG brand in 1995 on a new affordable sports car, the MGF, as well as strengthening Land Rover's position in the off-roader market. BMW controversially sold off the Rover Group in May 2000.Fact|date=August 2008 It retained the rights to build the forthcoming new Mini, while selling Land Rover to Ford. The MG and Rover marques were sold to the Phoenix Consortium, who branded the remains of the group as MG Rover and concentrated all production at the Longbridge plant. For the first time in six years, Britain had an independent mass production carmaker again.Fact|date=August 2008

After the split from Rover, Honda continued making the Civic range in the UK at a new plant in Swindon.Fact|date=August 2008

Toyota opened a new plant near Derby at the beginning of 1992.Fact|date=August 2008

Ford took over Jaguar in October 1989, and production of the new small Jaguar, the X type, started at Halewood in late 2000. By the end of the century, Ford had also acquired Land Rover and Aston Martin.Fact|date=August 2008

Mixed fortunes since 2000

The closure of Vauxhall's Luton car building plant in March 2003 meant that the Ellesmere Port site was the only Vauxhall car plant remaining in Britain. General Motors also retained the former Bedford works in Luton for producing vans such as the Vivaro and the Movano. By 2007, the Ellesmere Port plant was employing 3,000 and received a boost with confirmation that the next generation Astra will be produced there from 2009.Fact|date=August 2008

Ford passenger car production in the UK finished in 2002 after 90 years,Fact|date=August 2008 although production of commercial vehicles continued at Southampton. The Dagenham site switched from producing complete cars to producing diesel engines.Fact|date=August 2008 Losses at Jaguar lead to closure of the companies plant at Browns Lane Coventry in 2004.Fact|date=August 2008 Spare capacity at Halewood allowed Land Rover Freelander production to be transferred there in 2006.

MG Rover spent the early part of the 2000s investigating possible ventures with other carmakers in order to develop a new range of cars. Proposed links with foreign organisations including Malaysian carmaker Proton failed to materialise,Fact|date=August 2008 and by late 2004 Chinese carmaker Shanghai Automobile had shown an interest in taking over the Longbridge-based firm - who were now hundreds of millions of pounds in debt.Fact|date=August 2008 Talks broke down and the firm went into receivership in April 2005 with the loss of more than 6,000 jobs. Three months later, the firm's assets were purchased by another Chinese carmaker - Nanjing Automobile Group - and Longbridge partially re-opened over the summer of 2007 with an initial workforce of around 250 preparing to restart production of the MG TF which was relaunched in August 2008.

Peugeot reduced output of the Ryton plant in the spring of 2001 when its 306 model was replaced by the French-built 307, leaving the 206 as the only model being built there.Fact|date=August 2008 In April 2006 Peugeot closed their Ryton plant and move 206 production to Slovakia.

In 2007, Ford announced its intention to sell Aston Martin, and the company was bought by a British lead Consortium backed by Middle East investors. Ford retains a small stake in the company and supplies components including Engines.Fact|date=August 2008Ford also, in 2008, sold its Jaguar/Land Rover operation to Tata Motors of India.

Current motor vehicle production plants

(* estimated figure)


It has been estimated that there are about 4,000 companies in the UK involved in the manufacturing industry related to motorsport.cite news
title=Motor manufacturing industry moves up a gear
publisher=Daily Telegraph

Formula One motor racing has made its home in the UK, the following seven of the eleven teams competing for the 2008 season are based there:
*McLaren - Woking, Surrey
*Williams - Grove, Oxfordshire
*Renault - Enstone, Oxfordshire
*Super Aguri - Leafield, Oxfordshire
*Red Bull Racing - Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
*Force India - Silverstone, Northamptonshire
*Honda - Brackley, Northamptonshire

Some Manufacturers no longer in existence

British Leyland,
De Lorean Motor Company,
MG Rover,
Morris Motor Company,
Triumph Motor Company,
Vanden Plas,

ee also

*List of automobile manufacturers
*The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders


External links

* [ The British Motor Industry Heritage Trust]
* [ Austin Memories]

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