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The British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC), was a vehicle manufacturing company formed in the United Kingdom in 1968. Ultimately it would become nationalised as British Leyland, often referred to as just BL. In 1986 it was renamed to Rover Group.
BLMC was created in 1968 by the merger of British Motor Holdings (BMH) and Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), encouraged by the Wilson Labour Government (1964–1970). 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).
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. This, combined with serious industrial relations problems (principally, the company's relations with hard-line trade unions of the time); the 1973 oil crisis; the three-day week; high inflation; and ineffectual management meant that BL became an unmanageable and financially crippled behemoth whose bankruptcy in 1975 was assured.
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:
- Leyland 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 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 Belton and 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
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)
In 1984 Jaguar Cars became independent once more, through a public sale of its shares. In 1986 BL changed its name to Rover Group and in 1987 the Trucks Division 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.
In 1988 the remaining Rover Group business was sold by the British Government to British Aerospace (BAe).
Many of the brands were divested over time and continue to exist to this day. The heir to most of the volume car business was MG Rover which went bankrupt in April 2005, although at least some of the range is expected to be relaunched in 2007.
|The rise and fall of British Leyland - the car companies and the brands - |
|Jaguar||SS Cars||Jaguar||Jaguar||BMH||British Leyland||Jaguar||Ford|
|MG||Morris Garages (MG)||BMW||MGR||Nanjing|
|Vanden Plas||Vanden Plas||Ford|
Notes for the timeline table
- The car brands of BSA were divested, BSA was not merged into Jaguar.
- 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 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 Motorcycles Ltd. 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.
- 1895 Wolseley Motor Company
- 1896 Lanchester Motor Company
- 1896 Leyland Motors (commercial vehicles)
- 1896 Daimler
- 1898 Riley
- 1903 Standard
- 1904 Rover
- 1905 Austin
- 1912 Morris
- 1913 Vanden Plas
- 1919 Alvis
- 1923 MG created by Morris
- 1923 Triumph Motor Company
- 1924 BSA used as a car brand
- 1935 Jaguar
- 1947 Land Rover created by Rover
- 1952 Austin-Healey created by Austin division of BMC (see below)
- 1959 Mini created by Austin division of BMC (although the name 'Mini' was first used on a variant with Morris badges)
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 Nuffield Organisation
- 1944 Standard acquire Triumph, forming Standard Triumph
- 1946 Austin acquire Vanden Plas
- 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
- 1961 Leyland Motors acquire Standard Triumph
- 1963 Jaguar acquire the engine and fork lift truck manufacturing company Coventry Climax
- 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)
- 1972 BLMC take control of Innocenti
- 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.
- 1975 Innocenti passed to Alejandro de Tomaso
- 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
- 1982 Michael Edwardes steps down as Chairman, BL Cars Ltd renamed Austin Rover Group (ARG)
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 2006 Ford acquires the rights to the Rover brand name from BMW, though without any immediate plans for using it on production cars..
- 1948 Land Rover (Rover)
- 1948 Morris Minor (Nuffield)
- 1952 Rover 90 (Rover)
- 1952 Morris Oxford (BMC)
- 1954 Austin Cambridge (BMC)
- 1959 Triumph Herald (Standard-Triumph)
- 1959 Mini (BMC; Initially badged as the Austin Se7en and Morris Mini-Minor)
- 1961 Jaguar E-type (Jaguar)
- 1961 Riley Elf (BMC)
- 1961 Wolseley Hornet (BMC)
- 1962 Morris 1100 (BMC)
- 1962 MGB (BMC)
- 1963 Triumph 2000 (Leyland-Triumph)
- 1964 Mini Moke (BMC)
- 1964 Austin 1800/2200 (BMC)
- 1964 Rover 2000 (Rover)
- 1968 Jaguar XJ6 (BLMC)
- 1969 Austin Maxi (BLMC)
- 1970 Triumph Dolomite (BLMC)
- 1970 Triumph Toledo (BLMC)
- 1970 Range Rover (BLMC)
- 1971 Morris Marina (BLMC)
- 1971 Triumph Stag (BLMC)
- 1973 Austin Allegro (BLMC)
- 1975 Leyland Princess (BL)
- 1975 Triumph TR7 (BL)
- 1975 Jaguar XJS (BL)
- 1976 Rover SD1 (BL)
- 1980 Austin Metro (BL)
- 1980 Morris Ital (BL)
- 1981 Triumph Acclaim (BL)
- 1982 Austin Ambassador (ARG)
- 1983 Austin Maestro (ARG)
- 1984 Austin Montego (ARG)
- 1984 Rover 200-series (ARG)
- 1986 Rover 800-series/Sterling (ARG)
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.
- Morris Minor and Austin A40/Austin 1100
- Austin 1300 and Triumph Herald
- Morris Marina, Austin Allegro, and Triumph Dolomite
- Triumph 2000, Rover 2000, and Austin Princess
- Triumph Spitfire and MG Midget
- Triumph TR6/Triumph TR7 and MG B
- Rover 3500 and Jaguar XJ6
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.
- Riley One-Point-Five/Wolseley 1500
- MG Magnette ZA/ZB/Wolseley 4/44
- MG Magnette ZB/Wolseley 15/50
- Morris Oxford MO/Wolseley 6/80
- Austin A99 Westminster/Wolseley 6/99
- Austin A110 Westminster/Wolseley 6/110
- Austin 1800/Wolseley 18/85/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
- For history and models after 1986 see MG Rover Group
- Other nationalised industries
- Model-by-model history http://austin-rover.co.uk
- http://members.fortunecity.com/routeman68/history.htm - Leyland Truck & Bus
- http://www.dloc.org.uk/ - Daimler, Lanchester and BSA