- British Leyland
Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = British Leyland
fate = Nationalised in 1975.
Name changed to Rover Group in 1986.
Rover Group Leyland DAF
foundation = 1968
defunct = 1986
key_people = Lord Stokes
Michael Edwardes Graham Day
products = 1948
Rover 800-series/Sterling (ARG)
num_employees = 250,000
parent = British Leyland Ltd from 1975 (later called BL Ltd, BL plc and finally
Austin Rover Group, Land Rover Group, Leyland Vehicles
British Leyland was a vehicle manufacturing company formed in the
United Kingdomin 1968 as "British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd" (BLMC). It was partly nationalised in 1975 with the government creating a new holding companycalled "British Leyland Ltd" which became "BL Ltd (later BL plc)" in 1978. [ [http://www.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/ead/226bl.htm A Catalogue of the Papers of Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd ] ] [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9015458/British-Leyland-Motor-Corporation-Ltd British Leyland Motor Corporation, Ltd. - Britannica Online Encyclopedia ] ] It incorporated much of the British owned motor vehicle industry, and held 40% of the UK car market, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4294709.stm BBC NEWS | Politics | The politics of building cars ] ] 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. [ [http://www.austin-rover.co.uk/index.htm?ryderreportf.htm Austin Rover Online ] ] In 1986 it was renamed as the Rover Group, later to become MG Rover Group, which went bankrupt in 2005, bringing an end to mass car production by British owned manufacturers - with MG becoming part of Chinese Nanjing Automobile.
Jaguar and Land-Rover (Land-Rover previously owned by BMW) were sold in March 2008 by Ford to TATA Motors of India, who also bought the three brand names: Daimler, Lanchester, and Rover - the intellectual property rights for which had been bought by Shanghai, Nanjing bought MG brand.
BLMC was created in 1968 by the merger of
British Motor Holdings(BMH) and Leyland Motor Corporation(LMC), encouraged by Tony Bennas chair of the Industrial Reorganisation Committee created by the Wilson Labour Government (1964–1970). 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 Minorwhich was introduced in 1948 and the Austin Cambridgeand 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 focussed 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
Miniand 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
Immediately, Lord Stokes instigated plans to design and introduce new models quickly. The first result of this crash program was the
Morris Marinain 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.
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, inconsequent 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 (principally, the company's relations with hard-line trade unions of the time - which according to files that came to light following the collapse of the
Soviet Union, had been infiltrated by the KGBFact|date=July 2008); the 1973 oil crisis; the three-day week; high inflation; and ineffectual management meant that BL became an unmanageable and financially crippled behemoth whose bankruptcyin 1975 was assured. Sir Don Ryderwas 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 [BL Booklet - Graduate opportunities with British Leyland] :
*"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
*"Leyland Special Products" – the miscellaneous collection of other acquired businesses, itself structured into five sub-divisions::*Construction Equipment – Aveling-Barford,
Aveling-Marshall, Barfords of Beltonand Goodwin-Barsby:*Refrigeration – Prestcold:*Materials Handling – Coventry Climax(incorporating Climax Trucks, Climax Conveyancer and Climax Shawloader) :*Military Vehicles – Alvis and Self-Changing Gears:*Print – Nuffield Press(which printed the company's publications) and Lyne & Son
*"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 SD1executive car was voted European Car of the Year, having gained plaudits for its innovative design.
Sir Michael Edwardeswas appointed Chief Executive[ [http://www.austin-rover.co.uk/index.htm?wschapter5f.htm Michael Edwardes arrives] ] 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)
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".
In 1979 "British Leyland Ltd" was renamed to simply "BL Ltd" (later "BL plc") and its
subsidiarywhich acted as a holding companyfor all the other companies within the group "The British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd" to "BLMC Ltd". [http://members.fortunecity.com/routeman68/history.htm - Leyland Truck & Bus]
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 Groupmarking the end of the Morris and Triumph marques although Jaguar and Daimler remained in a separate company called Jaguar Car Holdings.
In 1984 "Jaguar Cars" became independent once more, through a public sale of its shares.
Fordsubsequently acquired Jaguar. In 1986 BL changed its name to Rover Groupand in 1987 the "Trucks Division - Leyland Vehicles" merged with the Dutch DAF company to form DAF NV, trading as Leyland DAFin 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 buyoutwho decided to sell the company to the Bus & Truck division of Volvo in 1988.
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 Cowleyoperations for MINI production and close the Longbridgefactory. Longbridge, along with the Rover and MG marques, was taken on by MG Roverwhich went bankrupt in April 2005, only to resume production two years later - though initially with just a sports car and upper-range saloon built in both Britain and Chinadue to the takeover of MG Rover's assets by Nanjing Automobile.
Many of the brands were divested over time and continue to exist to this day.
One of BL's key brands, Austin, is subject of a proposed revival by Nanjing Automobile as cheaper alternatives to the sporty MG saloons and hatchbacks, though no definite timescale for the reintroduction of this historic brand has been announced.
Notes for the timeline table
*Mini was not originally a marque in its own right. See
Miniand 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 plcowns 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 plcin 1981, in 2002 Alvis merged with part of Vickers Defence Systemsto form Alvis Vickerswhich was purchased by BAE Systemsin 2004. BAE Systems did not acquire Alvis through their ownership of Austin Rover Group / 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 MotorcyclesLtd. The former for automobiles and the latter for motorcycles. The motorcycle and car business separated in the 1930s.
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.
Wolseley Motor Company
Lanchester Motor Company
Leyland Motors Ltd(commercial vehicles)
* 1896 Daimler
* 1898 Riley
Standard Motor Company
* 1904 Rover
* 1905 Austin
* 1912 Morris
* 1919 Alvis
* 1923 MG created by Morris
Triumph Motor Company
* 1924 BSA used as a car brand
* 1935 Jaguar
Land Rovercreated by Rover
Austin-Healeycreated by Austin division of BMC (see below)
Mini: the car initially launched as the "Austin Seven" and "Morris Mini-Minor" became popularly known just as the 'Mini' and BMC recognised this by initially re-badging the Austin as the "Austin Mini", and subsequently deleting both marque names from the car and effectively making "Mini" a marque name in its own right.
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:
* 1910 Daimler purchased by the armaments-and-motorbikes engineering company BSA
* 1931 Lanchester purchased by BSA (last Lanchester 1956)
* 1938 Morris incorporates Wolseley and Riley forming the
* 1944 Standard acquire Triumph, forming Standard Triumph
* 1946 Austin acquire
* 1952 The Nuffield Organisation and Austin merge to form the
British Motor Corporation(BMC)
* 1960 Jaguar buy the car-making interests of BSA, including Daimler
Leyland Motorsacquire Standard Triumph
* 1962 Leyland Motors acquired ACV, the renamed AEC (
Associated Equipment Company) company.
* 1963 Jaguar acquire the engine and fork lift truck manufacturing company
* 1965 Rover acquire Alvis
* 1966 BMC merge with Jaguar to form
British Motor Holdings(BMH)
* 1967 Leyland absorb Rover
* 1968 Leyland merge with British Motor Holdings to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC)
* 1969 Joint venture with the National Bus Company to build
Leyland Nationalbuses, and also to continue the manufacture of Bristol buses previously built by the NBC.
* 1970s Majority stake in Danish partner DAB, to form Leyland-DAB, producer of the
Leyland-DAB articulated bus
* 1972 BLMC take control of
* 1974 Cessation of production of cars in Australia
* 1975 Publication of the Ryder Report, British Leyland effectively nationalised due to financial difficulties with new holding company formed British Leyland Ltd later BL plc with the government as the principal (but not the only) shareholder
* 1977 Michael Edwardes appointed as Chairman by Labour Government. Begins massive cull of excess BL assets.
* 1982 BL buys out the National Bus Company from the bus plant joint venture
* 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
Land Roverseparated from Rover to form a separate company, still part of BL
* 1979 Collaboration with
Hondabegins, sacking of Derek Robinson ("Red Robbo")
* 1978 Closure of Triumph assembly plant in Speke - production moved to
* 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
* 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
Daimlerand the US rights to Vanden Plas); bought by Ford in 1989
* 1984 Final
Triumph Acclaimrolls 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
* 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 PACCARin 1998 and integrated with Foden.
* 1987 Unipart, BL's spare parts division acquired by management buy-out
* 1988 Rover Group privatised; sold to
* 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
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. [ [http://www.chinacartimes.com/2008/01/25/unknown-mg-fan-asks-nac-mg-sucess-or-failure-part-2/ Unknown MG Fan asks: NAC MG, Success or failure? Part 2 at China Car Times ] ]
* 2006 Ford acquires the rights to the Rover brand name from BMW, though without any immediate plans for using it on production cars. [cite news
title=Rover brand name passes to Ford
* 2008 Ford completes the sale of Jaguar and
Land Roverto Tata Motors, of India
List of notable BL and BMC and related models (up to 1986)
Mini(BMC; Initially badged as the Austin Se7en and Morris Mini-Minor)
Austin Healey Sprite(BMC)
* 1964 Austin 1800/2200 (BMC)
* 1975 Princess (BL)
* 1986 Rover 800-series/Sterling (ARG) [ [http://www.team.net/www/morgan/history/linage.html British Car Linage ] ]
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:
Morris Minorand Austin A40/ Austin 1100
Austin 1300and Triumph Herald/ Triumph Toledo
Morris Marina, Austin Allegro, and Triumph Dolomite
Triumph 2000, Rover 2000, and Austin Princess
Triumph Spitfire, MG Midgetand Austin-Healey Sprite
Triumph TR6/ Triumph TR7and MG MGB
* Rover 3500 and
In contrast to the continued development of competing models, British Leyland continued the practice of
badge engineeringof models which had started under BMC; selling essentially the same vehicle under two (or more) different marques.
Riley One-Point-Five/ Wolseley 1500
* MG Magnette ZA/ZB/
* MG Magnette ZB/
* Morris Oxford MO/
* Morris Six/
Austin A99 Westminster/ Wolseley 6/99
Austin A110 Westminster/ Wolseley 6/110
Austin 1800/ Morris 1800/ Wolseley 18/85/ Austin 2200/ Morris 2200/ Wolseley Six
Austin A55 Cambridge/MG Magnette Mk. III/Morris Oxford V/Riley 4/68/ Wolseley 15/60
Austin A60 Cambridge/MG Magnette Mk. IV/Morris Oxford VI/ Riley 4/72/ Wolseley 16/60
Riley Pathfinder/ Riley Two-Point-Six/ Wolseley 6/90
* Austin Se7en/Morris Mini-Minor
* Morris Mini Traveller/Austin Mini Countryman
* Riley Elf/Wolseley Hornet
Austin 1100/ Austin 1300/ Morris 1100/ Morris 1300/ MG 1100/ Riley Kestrel/ Riley 1300/ Vanden Plas Princess/ Wolseley 1100
Austin-Healey Sprite/ MG Midget
Principal UK factories
This list is incomplete.
Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The MG sports car plant. Closed in 1980.
Alcester, Warwickshire. Former Maudslay plant, latterly making AEC dump trucks. Sold in early 1970s.
Basingstoke, Hampshire. Former Thornycroftplant, latterly a specialist heavy truck plant. Closed in 1969.
Bathgate, West Lothian. A new plant opened by BMC in 1961 to manufacture light trucks and tractors. Tractor assembly ended in 1982, truck assembly in 1985, and the plant closed in 1986.
Coventry. Main Daimler and Jaguar plant. Daimler bus production transferred to Leyland 1973, then purely a car plant. Closed by Ford in 2005.
Canley, Coventry. Originally owned by Standard, latterly the main Triumph car plant. Closed in 1980.
* Castle Bromwich, West Midlands. Plant taken over completely by Jaguar in 1977. Current main Jaguar assembly plant after the closure of the Browns Lane Coventry plant in 2005.
Cowley, Oxfordshire. Comprising the original main Morris plant and the Pressed Steel plant, and one of the largest British car production sites throughout the BLMC era. In 1993 the original Morris plant was sold to developers and demolished, with car production being concentrated on the former Pressed Steel site which is now owned by BMWand used for assembly of the modern MINI. [Cite book
author=Bardsley, Gillian; Laing, Stephen
title=Making Cars at Cowley
Leeds. Charles H. Roebus bodywork plant. Closed 1984, but reopened as Optarebus plant.
Brislington, Bristol. Former Bristol Commercial Vehiclesbus plant, initially 25% owned, from 1969 50% owned, from 1982 100% owned. Closed 1983.
London. The Vanden Plaslimousine factory, latterly used to assemble the Daimler DS420. Closed in 1979.
Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. Former Guy truck and bus plant. Closed in 1982.
Coventry. Former Alvis plant, latterly producing military vehicles. Closed by Alvis plc1998.
Leyland, Lancashire. Former Leyland Motors truck and bus plant. Bus production (under Volvoownership) ceased 1991. Truck manufacture continues under PACCARownership.
Workington), Cumbria. Bus plant opened 1970, initially (until 1982) as a joint venture between BLMC and the National Bus Company to build the Leyland Nationalbus. Closed by Volvo1993.
Birmingham. Originally the Austin plant, and at one time the largest manufacturing plant in the world. The largest British car plant in the 1970s. Closed upon the collapse of MG Rover in 2005. Successor Nanjing has restarted limited car assembly on a much smaller scale for the MG TF.
Lowestoft, Suffolk. Eastern Coach Worksbus bodywork plant, initially 25% owned, from 1969 50% owned, from 1982 100% owned. Closed 1986.
Park Royal, London. Park Royal Vehiclesbus bodywork plant. Closed 1980.
Scotstoun, Glasgow. Former Albion truck and bus plant. Vehicle assembly ceased 1980, but became an axle plant. Now owned by AAM.
Solihull, West Midlands. The former Rover plant. A new car assembly line opened in 1970s but closed 1981. The original plant survives as the home of Land Rover4x4 vehicles, who are now under Tata Motorsownership.
Southall, London. Former AEC bus and truck plant. Closed 1979.
Speke, Merseyside. Car plant opened by Standard-Triumph in 1960s. The first major British BLMC car assembly plant to close, in 1978.
Birmingham. Originally the main Wolseley assembly plant (until 1927), then the main Morris Commercial assembly plant, latterly for vans only. Closed in 1972, when van assembly transferred to nearby Ward End.
*Ward End (also known as Drews Lane / Common Lane / Washwood Heath),
Birmingham. Originally a Wolseley assembly plant (until 1948), later a component plant, and in 1968 the Austin-Morris Division's transmission plant. In 1972 it became BLMC's main van assembly plant. It is now owned by LDV Limitedand still used for van assembly.
Watford, Hertfordshire. Former Scammellplant building specialist heavy trucks. Closed 1988.
Leyland Motors Ltd
* For history and models after 1986 see
MG Rover Group
* Other nationalised industries
* [http://www.austinmemories.com Austin Memories]
* Model-by-model history http://austin-rover.co.uk
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