Leyland Motors Limited was a British vehicle manufacturer of lorries, buses and trolleybuses.
It gave its name to the British Leyland Motor Corporation formed when it merged with British Motor Holdings, later to become British Leyland after being nationalised. British Leyland later changed its name to simply BL, then in 1986 to Rover Group.
|Fate||Merged with British Motor Holdings|
|Successor||British Leyland Motor Corporation|
|Headquarters||Leyland, England, UK|
Leyland Motors has a long history dating from 1896, when the Sumner and Spurrier families founded the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in the town of Leyland in North West England. Their first products included steam lawn mowers. The company's first vehicle was a 1.5-ton-capacity steam powered van. This was followed by a number of undertype steam wagons using a vertical fire-tube boiler. By 1905 they had also begun to build petrol-engined wagons. The Lancashire Steam Motor Company was renamed Leyland Motors in 1907 when they took over Coulthards of Preston, who had been making steam wagons since 1897. They also built a second factory in the neighbouring town of Chorley which still remains today as the headquarters of the LEX leasing and parts company.
In 1920, Leyland Motors produced the Leyland 8 luxury touring car, a development of which was driven by J.G. Parry-Thomas atBrooklands. Parry-Thomas was later killed in an attempt on the land speed record when the car overturned. Rumours that a chain drive broke were found to be incorrect when the car was disinterred late in the 20th century as the chains were intact.. At the other extreme, they also produced the Trojan Utility Car in the Kingston upon Thames factory at Ham from 1922 to 1928.
Three generations of Spurriers controlled Leyland Motors from its foundation until the retirement of Sir Henry Spurrier in 1964. Sir Henry inherited control of Leyland Motors from his father in 1942, and successfully guided its growth during the postwar years. Whilst the Spurrier family were in control the company enjoyed excellent labour relations—reputedly never losing a day's production through industrial action.
World War II
During the war, Leyland Motors along with most vehicle manufacturers was involved in war production. Leyland built the Cromwell tankat its works from 1943 as well as medium/large trucks such as the Leyland Hippo and Retriever.
After the war, Leyland Motors continued military manufacture with the Centurion tank.
In 1946, AEC and Leyland Motors worked to form the British United Traction Ltd.
In 1955, through an equity agreement, manufacture of commercial vehicles under licence from Leyland Motors commenced in Madras, India at the new Ashok factory. The products were branded as Ashok Leyland.
On the other hand, Leyland Motors acquired other companies in the post war years:
- 1951: Albion Motors
- 1953: Collaboration with Danish Automobile Building (DAB), a bus manufacturer, later with a majority stake in the 1970s
- 1955: Scammell Lorries Ltd—military and specialist lorry manufacturer
- 1961: Standard Triumph (Standard-Triumph International Limited), cars, vans and some agricultural machinery interests
Holding company: Leyland Motor Corporation Limited
- 1962: Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV), which incorporated AEC, Thornycroft, Park Royal Vehicles and Charles H. Roe.
- 1962 a new group holding company was incorporated to own Leyland Motors Limited, ACV and new acquisitions
- 1965: Minority (25%) interests in Bristol Commercial Vehicles and Eastern Coach Works
- 1966: Rover cars and their Subsidiary, car, aero-engine and armoured fighting vehicle manufacturers Alvis
- 1967: Aveling-Barford was acquired This company mainly made road rollers and dumper trucks.
Donald Stokes, previously Sales Director, was appointed managing director of Leyland Motors Limited in September 1962 originally a Leyland student apprentice he had grown up with the company. He became chairman in 1966. In 1968 Leyland Motor Corporation Limited merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). BMH brought with it into the new organisation more famous British goods vehicle and bus and coach marques, including Daimler, Guy, BMC,Austin and Morris.
The Leyland diesel engines were used in Finnish Sisu and Vanaja lorries and buses in 1960s.
British Leyland era
The BLMC group was difficult to manage because of the many companies under its control, often making similar products. This, and other reasons, led to financial difficulties and in December 1974 British Leyland had to receive a guarantee from the British government.
In 1975, after the publication of the Ryder Report and the company's bankruptcy, BLMC was nationalised as British Leyland (BL) and split into 4 divisions with the bus and truck production becoming the Leyland Truck & Bus division within the Land Rover Leyland Group. This division was split intoLeyland Bus and Leyland Trucks in 1981. Leyland Trucks depended on British sales as well as export markets, mainly commonwealth and ex-commonwealth markets. The early 1980s were very hard, with export sales drying up in many places such as oil-dependent Nigeria. In 1986, BL changed its name to Rover Group. The equity stake in Ashok Leyland was controlled by Land Rover Leyland International Holdings, and sold in 1987. At this point, while building about 10,000 trucks per annum, Leyland was more and more depending on outside engines as production of their own 98-series was steadily declining. The 1986 closure of Bedford's heavy truck plant further harmed Leyland, as they had been planning on selling axles and other components to the GM subsidiary.
British Leyland was an automotive engineering and manufacturing conglomerate formed in the United Kingdom in 1968 asBritish Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC), following the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings. It was partly nationalised in 1975, when the UK government created a holding company called British Leyland, later BL, in 1978.It incorporated much of the British-owned motor vehicle industry, which constituted 40 percent of the UK car market, 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. In 1986 it was renamed as the Rover Group, later to become MG Rover Group, which went intoadministration in 2005, bringing mass car production by British-owned manufacturers to an end. MG and the Austin, Morris andWolseley marques became part of China's SAIC, with whom MG Rover attempted to merge prior to administration.
Today, MINI, Jaguar Land Rover and Leyland Trucks (now owned by BMW Group, TATA and Paccar, respectively) are the three most prominent former parts of British Leyland which are still active in the automotive industry, with SAIC-owned MG Motor continuing a small presence at the Longbridge site. Certain other related ex-BL businesses, such as Unipart, continue to operate independently.
BLMC was created in 1968 by the merger of British Motor Holdings (BMH) and Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), encouraged byTony Benn as chairman of the Industrial Reorganisation Committee created by the Wilson Government (1964–1970). At the time, LMC was a successful manufacturer, while BMH (which was the product of an earlier merger between the British Motor Corporationand Jaguar) was perilously close to collapse. The Government was hopeful LMC's expertise would revive the ailing BMH, and effectively create a "British General Motors". 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. Although BMH had enjoyed great success in the 1960s with both the Mini and the 1100/1300, both cars were infamously underpriced and despite their pioneering but unproven front wheel drive engineering, warranty costs had been crippling and had badly eroded those models' profitability. After the merger, Lord Stokes was horrified to find that BMH had no plans to replace the elderly designs in its portfolio. 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, a car with no discernible place in the market.
BMH had produced several successful cars, such as the Mini and the Austin/Morris 1100/1300range (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 compete effectively 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 programme was theMorris 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 that 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. Industrial action instigated by militant shop stewards frequently brought BL's manufacturing capability to its knees. Despite the duplication of production facilities as a result of the merger, there were multiple single points of failure in the company's production network which meant that a strike in a single plant could stop many of the others. Both Ford and General Motors had mitigated against this years before by merging their previously separate British and German subsidiaries and product lines (Ford had created Ford of Europe, whilst GM nurtured closer collaboration between Vauxhall Motors and Opel), so that production could be sourced from either British or Continental European plants in the event of industrial unrest. The upshot was that both Ford and Vauxhall ultimately overtook BL to become Britain's two best selling marques, a title they hold to the present day. At the same time, a tide of Japanese imports, spearheaded by Nissan (Datsun)and Toyota exploited both BL's inability to supply its customers and its declining reputation for quality – by the end of the 1970s, the British government had introduced protectionist measures in the form of import quotas on Japanese manufacturers in order to protect the ailing domestic producers (both BL and Chrysler Europe), which it was helping to sustain.
At its peak, BLMC owned almost 40 manufacturing plants across the country. Even before the merger BMH had included theoretically competing marques that were in fact selling substantially similar "badge engineered" cars. The British Motor Corporation had never properly integrated either the dealer networks or the production facilities ofAustin and Morris. This had been done partly to appease poor industrial relations - workers at Cowley for example still perceived themselves as "Morris" employees and still, therefore they refused to assemble cars badged as Austins, and the converse was true at the former Austin plant at Longbridge. The upshot was that both plants were producing badge engineered models of otherwise identical cars so that each network would have a product to sell. This meant that Austin and Morris still, to an extent, competed with each other and meant that each product was saddled with effectively twice the logistics, marketing and distribution costs that it would have if sold under a single name or if production of a single model platform was concentrated in one factory. Although BL did eventually end the wasteful double sourcing - for example production of theMini and the 1100/1300 was concentrated at Longbridge, whilst the 1800 and Austin Maxi ranges moved to Cowley, the production of sub assemblies as well as component suppliers were scattered all over the Midlands which greatly increased the cost of keeping the factories running.
BMH and Leyland Motors had expanded and acquired companies throughout the 1950s and 1960s in order to compete with one other, with the result that when the two conglomerates were brought together into BL there was even more internal competition. 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.
Individual model lines that were similarly sized were therefore competing against each other, yet were never discontinued nor were model ranges rationalised quickly enough; in fact the policy of having multiple models competing in the same market segment continued long after the merger – for instance BMH's MGB remained in production alongside LMC's Triumph TR6, the Rover P5 competed with the Jaguar XJ, whilst in the medium family sector, the Princess was in direct competition with upscale versions of the Morris Marina and cheaper versions of the Austin Maxi, meaning that economies of scale resulting from large production runs could never be realised. 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.
BL marketing and management attempted to draw more obvious distinctions between the marques – most notable was the decision to pitch Morris as a maker of conventional mass-market cars to compete with Ford and Vauxhall and Austin to continue BMC's line of advanced family cars with front-wheel drive and fluid suspension. This resulted in the Morris Marina and the Austin Allegro. The policy's success was mixed. Since the dealership network was still not sufficiently rationalised it meant that Austin and Morris dealers (which had, in BMC/BMH days, each offered a full range of cars both advanced and traditional) had their product range halved and found that they could no longer cater to many previously loyal customers' tastes. The policy was also carried out hapzardly: The advanced, Hydragas-sprung Princess began life in 1975 sold as an Austin, a Morris and a Wolseley before being rebadged altogether under the new Princess name. The Princess (and the Mini, which BL also turned into a marque in its own right) was sold across the Austin-Morris dealership network, making any distinction between the two even more vague to many customers.
These internal issues, which were never satisfactorily solved, 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.
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, effectively nationalising the company. Between 1975 and 1980 these shares were vested in the National Enterprise Board which had responsibility for managing this investment. The company was now organised into the following four divisions:
- 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 theNuffield designs, but built in a plant in Bathgate, Scotland.
- 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
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 competing in the same sector: the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000. More positive news for the company came at the end of 1976 with the approval by Industry Minister Eric Varley of a £140 million investment of public money in refitting the Longbridge plant for production of the company's "ADO88" (Mini replacement) model, due for launch in 1979. However, poor results from customer clinics of the ADO88, coupled with the UK success of the Ford Fiesta, launched in 1976, forced a snap redesign of ADO88 which evolved into the "LC8" project – eventually launched as the Austin Mini Metro in 1980.
In 1977 Sir Michael Edwardes was appointed chief executive by the NEB 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 (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 subsidiary which acted as a holding company for all the other companies within the group The British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd to BLMC Ltd.
BL's fortunes took another much-awaited rise in October 1980 with the launch of the Austin Metro (initially named the Mini 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. Towards the final stages of the Metro's development, BL entered into an alliance with Honda to provide a new mid-range model which would replace the ageing Triumph Dolomite, but would more crucially act as a stop-gap until the Austin Maestro and Montego were ready for launch. This car would emerge as the Triumph Acclaim in 1981, and would be the first of a long line of collaborative models jointly developed between BL and Honda. By 1982 the BL Cars Ltd division renamed itself Austin Rover Group, shortly before the launch of the Maestro and Michael Edwardes was replaced by Harold Musgroveas chairman and chief executive. Jaguar and Daimler remained in a separate company called Jaguar Car Holdings, but were later sold off and privatised in 1984.
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 Princess 2,Austin Maxi, Morris Marina and Triumph Dolomite. The Marina became the Ital in August 1980 following a superficial facelift, and a year later the Princess 2 received a major 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. The Triumph Acclaim was replaced in that same year by another Honda-based product – the Rover 200-series.
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 formDAF 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 Volvoin 1988.
Rover Group sale
In 1986 Graham Day took the helm as chairman and CEO and the third joint Rover-Honda vehicle – the Rover 800-series – was launched which replaced the 10-year-old Rover SD1. That same year, the British government controversially tried to reprivatise and sell-off Land Rover, however this plan was later abandoned. 1987 saw the Austin name dropped on the Metro, Maestro and Montego, signalling the end for the historic Austin marque, in a push to focus on the more prestigious (and potentially more profitable) Rover badge. In 1988 the business was sold by the British Government to British Aerospace (BAe), and shortly after shortened its name to just Rover Group. 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.
Many of the brands were divested over time and continue to exist on the books of several companies to this day.
The Leyland name and logo continues as a recognised and respected marque across India, the wider subcontinent and parts of Africa in the form of Ashok Leyland. Part of the giant Hinduja Group, Ashok Leyland manufactures buses, trucks, defence vehicles and engines. The company is a leader in the heavy transportation sector within India and has an aggressive expansionary policy. Ironically, since 1987, when the London-based Hinduja Group bought the Indian-based Ashok Leyland company, it is once again a British-owned brand. Today, Ashok-Leyland is pursuing a joint venture with Nissan and through its acquisition of the Czech truck maker, Avia, is entering the European truck market directly. With its purchase, in 2010, of a 25 per cent stake in UK-based bus manufacturer Optare, Ashok Leyland has taken a step closer to reconnecting with its British heritage, as Optare is a direct descendant of Leyland's UK bus-making division.
British Leyland also provided the technical know-how and the rights to their Leyland 28 BHP tractor for Auto Tractors Limited, a tractor plant in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh. Established in 1981 with state support, ATL only managed to build 2,380 tractors by the time the project was ended in 1990 – less than the planned production for the first two years. The project ended up being taken over bySipani, who kept producing tractor engines and also a small number of tractors with some modest success.
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 reassigned 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 licensed 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.
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 Motors
- 1896 Lanchester Motor Company
- 1896 Leyland Motors Ltd (commercial vehicles)
- 1896 Daimler
- 1898 Riley
- 1899 Albion
- 1903 Standard Motor Company
- 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 : the car initially launched as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor became popularly known just as the 'Mini' and BMC recognised this by re-badging the Austin as the Austin Mini. British Leyland deleted both marque names from the car and creating Mini as a marque in its own right in 1969.
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 merged with the BSA car armaments-and-motorbikes engineering company BSA (last BSA car, 1939)
- 1931 Lanchester purchased by BSA/Daimler (last Lanchester 1956)
- 1938 Morris Motors purchases Wolseley and Riley and from 1943 they are jointly referred to as the Nuffield Organisation
- 1944 Standard acquires Triumph, forming Standard Triumph
- 1946 Austin acquires Vanden Plas
- 1951 Leyland Motors purchase the share capital of Albion Motors
- 1952 Morris and Austin merge to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC)
- 1955 Leyland Motors acquires Scammell Lorries Limited of Watford
- 1960 Jaguar buys Daimler for the latter's production facilities.
- 1961 Leyland Motors acquires Standard Triumph
- 1962 Leyland Motors acquires ACV, the renamed AEC (Associated Equipment Company) company.
- 1963 Jaguar acquires the engine and fork lift truck manufacturing company Coventry Climax
- 1965 Rover acquires Alvis
- 1966 Jaguar merged into BMC
- 1966 BMC changes its name to British Motor Holdings (BMH)
- 1967 Leyland absorbs Rover
- 1968 Leyland merges with British Motor Holdings to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC)
- 1969 Joint venture with the National Bus Company to build Leyland National buses, and also to continue the manufacture of Bristol buses and Eastern Coach WorksBodies 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 takes control of Innocenti
- 1974 Cessation of production of cars in Australia
- 1975 Publication of the Ryder Report: British Leyland effectively was nationalised due to financial difficulties, with formation of new holding company, 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
- 1975 The final Wolseley, a Saloon, is built, thus ending the Wolseley marque
- 1978 A further reorganisation sees Land Rover being separated from Rover, and established as a standalone company within BL. Leyland Cars Ltd is renamed BL Cars Ltd, and is split into two divisions – Austin Morris and Jaguar Rover Triumph.
- 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
- 1980 Vanden Plas is discontinued as a marque name but remains as a trim level name on selected models of other marques
- 1981 Closure of Rover-Triumph plant in Solihull. The first joint venture car with Honda - the Triumph Acclaim, goes into production at Cowley.
- 1981 Alvis sold to United Scientific Holdings and Alvis plc formed
- 1981 Prestcold, the industrial refrigerator manufacturer is sold to Suter plc. Assets ultimately now owned by Emerson Electric.
- 1982 Coventry Climax is de-merged and becomes a standalone company.
- 1982 The Princess marque, launched in 1975, is discontinued upon the launch of the Austin Ambassador
- 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
- 1982 Production of British Leyland cars ceases in New Zealand
- 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. Bathgate narrowly avoided a shut down in 1981, but instead became responsible for engine production and export market trucks. Leyland's truck exports then proceeded to collapse as oil prices dropped, making the end inevitable.
- 1986 BL plc renamed Rover Group plc, 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 asLeyland 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 plc is privatised; sold to British Aerospace, and renames itself Rover Group Car Holdings Ltd; its two remaining subsidiaries being Austin Rover and Land Rover.
- 1989 The mass market car subsidiary, still named Austin Rover Group Ltd, shortens its name to simply Rover Group Ltd - thus ending the use of the Austin brand in the public domain.
- 1994 Rover Group Car Holdings Ltd 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
- 2007 MG Rover goes into administration with huge debts, and its assets are taken over by Nanjing Automobile (Nanjing Automobile Corporation, NAC).
- 2007 SAIC takes over NAC and relaunches production at Longbridge
- 2006 Ford acquires the rights to the Rover brand name from BMW, though without any immediate plans for using it on production cars.
- 2008 Ford completes the sale of Jaguar, Rover and Land Rover to Tata Motors, of India
Notable BL and BMC and related models
- 1948 Land Rover (Rover)
- 1948 Morris Minor (Nuffield)
- 1952 Rover 90 (Rover)
- 1952 Morris Oxford MO (BMC)
- 1954 Austin Cambridge (BMC)
- 1959 Triumph Herald (Standard-Triumph)
- 1959 Austin Gipsy (BMC)
- 1959 Mini (BMC; Initially badged as the Morris Mini-Minor and later Austin Se7en then Austin Mini)
- 1961 Jaguar E-type (Jaguar)
- 1961 Riley Elf (BMC)
- 1961 Wolseley Hornet (BMC)
- 1961 Austin Healey Sprite (BMC)
- 1961 MG Midget (BMC)
- 1962 Triumph Spitfire (Leyland-Triumph)
- 1962 Morris 1100 (BMC)
- 1962 MG 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)
- 1973 Leyland P76 (Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia)
- 1975 Princess (BL)
- 1975 Triumph TR7 (BL)
- 1975 Jaguar XJS (BL)
- 1976–1987: Rover SD1 (BL)
- 1980–1990: Austin Metro (BL)
- 1980–1984: 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.
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 Minor and Austin A40/Austin 1100
- Austin 1300 and Triumph Herald/Triumph Toledo
- Morris Marina, Austin Allegro, and Triumph Dolomite
- Triumph 2000, Rover 2000, and Princess (car)
- Triumph Spitfire, MG Midget and Austin-Healey Sprite
- Triumph TR6/Triumph TR7 and MG MGB
- 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 4/50
- Morris Six/Wolseley 6/80
- 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 Farina 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
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
Volume car production plants
- Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The MG sports car plant. Closed in 1980.
- Birmingham Adderley Park. 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 Common Lane.
- Birmingham Acocks Green, Rover engine and transmissions plant
- Birmingham Castle Bromwich, Former Fisher and Ludlow body plant, acquired by BMC in 1953. Functioned as body plant for Mini and Jaguar models, employing c9,000 workers in the 1970s, Plant taken over completely by Jaguar in 1977, and became the main Jaguar assembly plant after the closure of the Browns Lane Coventry plant in 2005. The plant still employs 2000 workers.
- Birmingham Cofton Hackett, Engine plant built in 1968 adjacent to Longbridge to produce the E-Series engine for the Austin Maxi and later the Allegro. Became part of Rover Powertrain following the creation of MG Rover in 2000, but was closed and demolished following the 2005 collapse.
- Birmingham Drews Lane / Common Lane. Also known as the Ward End works. The Plant dates from 1913 and was built by Electric & Ordnance Accessories, a subsidiary of Vickers. Was then 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. Van production was suspended in 2008 and did not resume, due to the collapse of the LDV Group.
- Birmingham Garrison Street, Bordesley Green, c800 workers making Triumph components. Closed
- Birmingham Longbridge. Originally the Austin plant, and at one time the largest manufacturing plant in the world. The largest British car plant in the 1970s, employing c25,000 workers and famous as the home of the Mini. Closed upon the collapse of MG Rover in 2005. Two thirds of the plant has now been demolished and cleared for new uses. Successor Nanjing has restarted limited car assembly on a much smaller scale for the MG TF.
- Birmingham SU Carburettors. Bought by Morris and established at Washwood Heath, making fuel pumps and carburettors (c1300 workers). Closed early 1980s
- Birmingham Tyseley, Rover engine and transmission plant, employing c4,000 workers in the 1970s. Closed mid-1980s
- Cardiff. Opened by Rover in 1964 to manufacture transmissions and axles for Rover and Land Rover vehicles. Closed in November 1984, following major rationalisation of production facilities within the Austin Rover Group. All facilities corresponding to Land Rover output were transferred to Solihull East Works on cessation of Rover SD1 production.
- Cowley, Oxfordshire. Formerly comprising the main Morris plant and the Pressed Steel body 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 BMW and used for assembly of the modern MINI.
- Coventry Courthouse Green engine plant. Formerly Morris Engines Ltd., closed late 1981. The original Gosford Street building is now the Coventry University Business School's William Morris Building.
- Coventry Browns Lane. Originally a World War II Shadow factory, built for Daimler, which subsequently became the mMain Jaguar assembly plant. Closed by Ford in 2005.
- Coventry Canley. Originally owned by Standard, latterly the main Triumph car plant and the largest factory in the city. Closed in 1980. Plant demolished in 1993 and sold for redevelopment.
- Coventry Radford. Former Daimler plant. Bus chassis assembly transferred to Leyland 1973, subsequently the Jaguar engine and axle plant. Closed by Ford in the late 1990s.
- Leicester Rearsby Components plant, formerly the assembly plant for Auster Aircraft. Closed by British Leyland in 1981, subject to a management buyout, passed to Adwest and closed in 2003.
- Liverpool Speke. Former Hall Engineering Group car body plant purchased by Standard-Triumph in 1959 (Speke No.1), plus new Triumph assembly plant opened in 1970 (Speke No.2). No.1 plant became the first major British BLMC car assembly plant to close, in 1978. No.2 plant continued to produce bodies for assembly at Canley until closure in 1980.
- Llanelli. Radiator and pressings plant opened in the early 1960s, employing c 4,000 workers in the 1970s.Now owned by Calsonic Llanelli Radiators
- Solihull, West Midlands. The former Rover plant. Became a Land Rover-only plant in 1981 when Rover SD1 production was moved to the Cowley plant. Survives as aJaguar Land Rover plant, now owned by TATA motors.
- Swindon. Former Pressed Steel Company bodywork plant, now owned by BMW for manufacture of MINI body panels.
Truck and bus plants
- Alcester, Warwickshire. Former Maudslay plant, latterly making AEC dump trucks. Sold in the early 1970s.
- Basingstoke, Hampshire. Former Thornycroft plant, 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, following the sale to Marshall Tractors who transferred production to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. The truck assembly ceased in 1985, and the plant closed in 1986.
- Brislington, Bristol. Former Bristol Commercial Vehicles bus plant, initially 25% owned, from 1969 50% owned, from 1982 100% owned. Closed 1983.
- Cross Gates, Leeds. Charles H. Roe bus bodywork plant. Closed by Leyland in 1984, but reopened in 1985 as Optare bus plant. Closed in 2011 when replaced by a new factory at Sherburn-in-Elmet.
- Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. Former Guy truck and bus plant. Closed in 1982.
- Holyhead Road, Coventry. Former Alvis plant, latterly producing military vehicles. Closed by Alvis plc and demolished in 1992; site now home of Alvis Retail Park.
- Kingsbury Lane, London. The Vanden Plas limousine factory, latterly used to assemble the Daimler DS420. Closed in 1979.
- Leyland, Lancashire. Former Leyland Motors truck and bus plant. Bus production (under Volvo ownership) ceased 1991. Truck manufacture continues under PACCARownership.
- Lillyhall (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 Volvo 1993.
- Lowestoft, Suffolk. Eastern Coach Works bus bodywork plant, initially 25% owned, from 1969 50% owned, from 1982 100% owned. Closed 1986.
- Park Royal, London. Park Royal Vehicles bus 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.
- Southall, London. Former AEC bus and truck plant. Closed 1979.
- Watford, Hertfordshire. Former Scammell plant building specialist heavy trucks. Closed 1988.
Leyland name post-British Leyland
The bus operations were divested as a management buy-out to form Leyland Bus, and was subsequently bought by Volvo Buses in 1988, which discontinued most of its product range but adopted the Leyland Olympian, re-engineering it as the first named Volvo Bus model, the Volvo Olympian aside from minor frame changes the major alterations were the fitment of Volvo axles, braking system and controls. Both were the best selling double-deck bus chassis of their time.
- 1987 The Leyland Trucks division of Rover Group (formerly BL) merged with DAF Trucks of The Netherlands, and was floated on the Dutch stock exchange as DAF NV. The new company traded as Leyland DAF in the UK, and as DAF elsewhere.
- 1993 DAF NV went into bankruptcy. The UK truck division was bought through a management buy-out and became Leyland Trucks. The van division was also bought through a management buy-out and became LDV Limited. The Spare Parts Operation (Multipart) was also subject to a management buy-out before eventually becoming part of the LEX organisation.
- 1998 Leyland Trucks was acquired by the US truck manufacturer PACCAR. Leyland Trucks now operates as a division of PACCAR from the Leyland Assembly Plant in North West England manufacturing around 14,000 trucks per year of which about a third are sold in the EU, though not with the name Leyland.
The Leyland name and logo continues as a recognised and respected marque across India, the wider subcontinent and parts of Africa in the form of Ashok Leyland. Part of the giantHinduja Group, Ashok Leyland manufactures buses, trucks, defence vehicles and engines. The company is a leader in the heavy transportation sector within India and has an aggressive expansionary policy. Ironically, since 1987, when the London-based Hinduja Group bought the Indian-based Ashok Leyland company, it is once again a British-owned brand. Today, Ashok-Leyland is pursuing a joint venture with Nissan, and through its acquisition of the Czech truck maker, Avia, is entering the European truck market directly. With its purchase of a 26% stake in UK-based bus manufacturer Optare in 2010, Ashok Leyland has taken a step closer to reconnecting with its British heritage, as Optare is a direct descendant of Leyland's UK bus-making division. On 21 December 2011, Ashok Leyland bought an additional 49% stake in Optare, bringing its total to 75%.
Historically, Leyland Motors was a major manufacturer of buses used in the United Kingdom and worldwide. It achieved a number of firsts or milestones that set trends for the bus industry. It was one of the first manufacturers to devise chassis designs for buses that were different from trucks, with a lower chassis level to help passengers to board. Its chief designer, John George Rackham, who had experience at the Yellow Coach Company in Chicago before returning to England, created the Titan and Tiger ranges in 1927 that revolutionised bus design. After 1945, it created another milestone with the trend-setting Atlantean rear-engined double-decker busdesign produced between 1956 and 1986.
- Q-type 4 ton
- SQ2 7 ton
- SWQ2 10-ton six-wheeler
- Octopus 22-ton eight-wheeler
- Leyland 90
- Steer (1966, Ergomatic)
- Gas Turbine
- Terrier (G-series)
- Mastiff (G-series)
- Boxer (G-series)
- Clydesdale (G-series)
- Reiver (G-series)
- Marathon (Ergomatic)
- Bison (Ergomatic)
- Buffalo (Ergomatic)
The G-series cab was built in Bathgate and was available with several different names, such as Terrier, Clydesdale, and Reiver. After this cab was replaced the tooling was shipped to Turkey, where BMC's Turkish subsidiary built it as the "BMC Yavuz" and then as the "Fatih" (with Cummins engines) from 1986 until 1996.
The Marathon was Leyland's answer to the booming "max cap" truck fad at the start of the 1970s. Imports such as the Volvo F88 and Scania 110/140 were selling very well in the UK thanks to the previously unheard of levels of driver comfort, reliability, quality and performance.
Leyland had insufficient money for development of a complete new vehicle at the time, so designers were instructed to utilise as many existing in-house components as possible. It was perceived at the time that the resulting model would be a stopgap until the new T45 range was ready for production toward the latter half of the 1970s.
The cab was a re-worked version of the "Ergomatic" tilt cab of 1965, heavily modified with different lower panels, raised height etc., and was available in day and sleeper cab form. Engines were decided from the outset to be in the higher power category to be competitive with rival vehicles. The only existing engine within the Leyland empire suitable for such an application (following the demise of the ill-fated fixed-head 500 series and AEC's underdeveloped and unreliable V8) was the AEC AV760 straight-six, which was turbocharged and designated as the TL12. Other engine options included a 200 bhp Leyland L11, as well as Cummins 10- and 14-litre engines at 250 and 330 bhp, respectively.
Production began in 1973, and various shortcomings were noted, including below-par heating and ventilation, and pronounced cab roll. However, road testers of the time were very impressed by the truck's power and performance. In 1977, the redesigned "Marathon 2" was launched, an updated and revised vehicle that attempted to address some of the previous criticisms of the earlier vehicle. Relatively few Marathons of all types were sold before production ended in 1979 with the introduction of the T45 "roadtrain" range of vehicles.
This was Leyland's answer to the Ford cargo in the non-HGV 7.5-ton truck sector. Launched in 1984, it utilised a Leyland 698 straight-six engine until 1986, when a 5.9L Cummins was introduced. It was notable at the time for its low-level passenger side windscreen, featured as a safety aid to enable the driver to see the kerb, although this was deleted on later models. The basic cab had a long service life, becoming later on the Leyland DAF 45.
The Leyland Roadtrain was a range of heavy goods vehicle tractor units manufactured by Leyland Trucks between 1980 and 1990. The nomenclature "T45" refers to the truck range as a whole and encompasses models such as the lightweight 7.5-ton Roadrunner, Freighter (fourwheel rigid truck), Constructor (multi-axle rigid tipper or mixer chassis - its chassis owing much to the outgoing Scammell 8-wheeler Routeman), and Cruiser (basic spec low weight tractor unit). The Roadtrain itself was a max weight model with distance work in mind.
The T45's cab is called the C40 and its design was a joint effort between Leyland, BRS and Ogle Design and was seen as the height of modernity when compared with its predecessors, the idea being to have one basic design to replace the various outgoing models (for example, the Bathgate built G cab on the Terrier, the Ergomatic cabbed Lynx, Beaver etc.). This did indeed make good economic sense; however, there has been speculation that Leyland did in fact alienate a number of customers who had traditionally purchased other marques from within the Leyland empire—Albion, AEC, Scammell, etc.—who were now left with no alternative but to have a Leyland branded vehicle or purchase from elsewhere.
Throughout its production run, engine choices included the AEC-based TL12, a straight carry over from the preceding "stopgap" model Marathon range, The Rolls-Royce Eagle 265/300 and the Cummins 290 L10 and 14-litre 350 coupled to a Spicer or Eaton transmission, although all versions produced a distinctive whine from the propshaft knuckle joint when approaching 60 mph (97 km/h). The TL12 engine was dropped early on in the production run, with most large fleet buyers choosing the Rolls-Royce engine.
The Roadtrain was available in day- and sleeper-cabbed form, in high and low datum versions—this refers to the cab height—high datum versions were intended as long haul vehicles with higher mounted cabs and more internal space. 6x2 versions were built in high cab form only on a chassis that was basically that of the ageing Scammell trunker. The Constructor's chassis was entirely Routeman behind the cab, albeit with altered suspension and with the front chassis rails splayed wider apart to fit the new C40 cab.
In 1986, the high roofed Roadtrain interstate was introduced, a top of the range long distance truck with standing room inside.
The Roadtrain was a common sight throughout most of the 1980s, with a great many of the major fleet users in the UK such as Tesco, Blue Circle (unusually with high datum day cabs) and BRS running them. The Firm of Swain's based at Rochester in Kent had a number of roadtrains in its fleet which enjoyed a comparatively long service life (until the late 1990s) before being replaced by the newer DAF 85. Sales were never quite satisfactory, however, with the vacation closure extended in 1986 to reduce unsold stock.
Production ended in 1990 with the sale of Leyland Trucks to Dutch firm DAF, although as a postscript DAF relaunched the model in low-datum form (it was already manufacturing the large DAF 95) as the DAF 80, using the Roadtrain cab with the 11.6-litre (710 cu in) DAF 330 ATi engine (quite ironic, given that this engine had its roots in the Leyland O.680). This model was produced for a relatively short time until 1993 with the launch of the brand new cabbed DAF 85.
Due partly to the cab's propensity to rust and also to the admittedly short life of commercial vehicles, any Roadtrain in commercial operation is now a very rare sight indeed. However, a small number remain in use throughout the country as towing-and-recovery vehicles.
The army made use of an 8x6 version of the Roadtrain as a hook loader until recently. This is known to the British Army as Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System(DROPS), which has seen action Iraq and Afghanistan and is still in service, but is due to be replaced by the MAN version.
The Leyland Comet was introduced in 1986, specifically designed for export markets mainly in the developing world. As such, it was a no-frills vehicle of a simple and sturdy design, with five- or six-speed transmissions rather than the multi-speed units used on European models. The cabin was a simplified all-steel version of that used by the Roadrunner, designed to enable local assembly. The three-axle version is called the Super Comet.
Diesel Multiple Units
- British Rail British United Traction
- Pacer (train)
- British Rail Class 155