British Leyland Motor Corporation

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd. (BLMC)
British Leyland Ltd. (BL)
BL plc
Austin Rover Group
Rover Group

legal form Limited Company
founding 1968
Seat United Kingdom
Number of employees 170,000
Branch Motor vehicle manufacturer

The British Leyland Ltd. (BLMC) and later British Leyland Ltd. (BL) , BL plc , Austin Rover Group and Rover Group , usually called British Leyland , was a listed British conglomerate with a focus on the automotive industry. It emerged in 1968 as the culmination of a wave of mergers between various competing vehicle manufacturers and in 1975 had to be spectacularly saved from collapse through nationalization . The rapid decline of the group is mainly attributed to a number of unfavorable factors in the highly competitive and image-rich passenger car sector.

The company comprised various manufacturers of cars , trucks , tractors , forklifts , military vehicles , various machines and sheet metal parts, refrigerators and printed matter with a total of over 170,000 employees and made up a large part of the British vehicle industry.

In the course of the nationalization, the company received substantial amounts of public funding on several occasions, was renamed and restructured several times and finally gradually sold to various investors in the course of the 1980s . Above all, the passenger car sector was reduced in size.



An old British Leyland stock

The creation of British Leyland was the culmination of a long wave of mergers between British automobile manufacturers. In the first two post-war decades, despite steadily increasing sales figures, these often showed only small profits because their product portfolio consisted of many different models with only ever small quantities, which made the rationalization of production very difficult. At the time, the British government around Harold Wilson in particular had the hope of being able to counteract this negative development through state pressure on the corporations to join together to form larger units in order to achieve higher quantities.

British Leyland was created in January 1968 through the merger of two car companies, namely Leyland Motors Ltd. ("Leyland") with the much larger British Motor Holdings Ltd. ("British", abbreviated BMH). At this point in time, both companies had already gone through a series of acquisitions and mergers. Leyland, originally a very successful manufacturer mainly of commercial vehicles , took over the premium manufacturers Standard-Triumph (1961) and Rover (1967).

British Motor Holdings, originally British Motor Corporation (BMC), was formed in 1952 as a result of the merger of arch-rivals Austin and Morris and was the largest British car manufacturer with around 40% market share. In addition, the group was expanded in 1965 to include Pressed Steel , the largest supplier of body panels and pressed parts to the British automotive industry, and in 1966 to include Jaguar Daimler , a small but highly profitable and internationally successful niche manufacturer.

The road to bankruptcy (1968–1974)

A number of British Leyland vehicles were characterized by excessively long construction periods and accordingly outdated, such as the Mini , which remained in production from 1959 to 2000.

Soon after the merger of the two companies, it turned out that only Leyland and Jaguar were operating profitably, the Austin / Morris division and thus most of the passenger car sector was on the verge of collapse. Factories and vehicle models were completely out of date, and the development of successor models had largely ceased due to a lack of financial resources. In addition, two models that had just started turned out to be major failures.

British Leyland vehicles from the 1970s such as the Austin Maxi were not very attractive to customers and were also unreliable.

As a result, some new car models were developed immediately and very hectically. Apart from the fact that these new developments complement the model range but could not replace it, they again turned out to be mistakes. The vehicles were technically immature, very poorly processed and did not meet the customer's taste, which quickly earned the group a bad reputation. The car market share and with it the capacity utilization of the factories decreased rapidly within a few years. At the same time, the government subsidized the construction of further production sites, which led to lower capacity utilization. In addition, the gold standard brought an overvaluation of the British pound with it, which reduced profits from exports.

To make matters worse, the merger brought together a large number of established car brands under one roof, some of which had previously been bitter competitors, so that there was considerable rivalry within the group. Together with the group-wide new developments, an opaque and double-tracked product portfolio was created for the customer. As a result, the attempt to establish the name “British Leyland” as a uniform umbrella brand ultimately failed.

In addition, the group was very confusing and difficult to manage. Apart from the various competing sub-organizations, British Leyland had over 40 different production facilities at peak times, which were spread over the whole of Central England, making production logistically complex and inefficient.

The problems in the car sector, in combination with overwhelmed and completely divided management, considerable bad investments, extremely problematic relationships with the unions and chaotic conditions in production led to the rapid decline of the entire group of companies. At the end of 1974 the group was on the verge of bankruptcy .

Nationalization, restructuring and reprivatisation (1975–1988)

Since the government did not want to risk the uncontrolled collapse of the group with its more than 170,000 employees and the corresponding rise in unemployment , they decided to nationalize it. The company, which was now called British Leyland Ltd (BL) and later BL plc, was to be restructured at the suggestion of a government commission and the car sector through massive investments of over 1.5 billion (according to 2013: 11 billion ) Pounds sterling will be modernized and expanded.

The Triumph Acclaim was the first vehicle model created in collaboration with Honda. At the same time it was the last triumph.

The expansive plans in the car sector soon proved to be completely unrealistic. Instead, the group management under Michael Edwardes (1977–1982) had to take the path of consolidation and contraction. The product range was streamlined and almost all brands were gradually discontinued, until in 1986 only Rover was basically left. In addition, with the support of the Thatcher government , the unions were ousted, large parts of the middle management were replaced and production was concentrated in a few locations. Numerous factories were closed and tens of thousands of workers made redundant. A joint venture with the Japanese car manufacturer Honda also made it possible to catch up with technological deficits and to bring modern and at least relatively attractive vehicle models with high manufacturing quality onto the market relatively quickly.

This process was accompanied by the gradual sale of almost all other business areas. The bus business was sold to Volvo , Jaguar was sold to Ford , truck production to DAF , the van division was spun off under the name LDV , and the military vehicle division ( Alvis Cars ) was transferred to United Scientific Holdings . The sale of the remaining passenger car division to British Aerospace (BAe) in 1988 finally marked the end of the era of BL, now operating as the Rover Group, as a state-owned company.

However, according to observers, the restructuring of the car division was only partially successful, despite all efforts. The factories were still not running at full capacity, which was mainly due to the company's lack of export orientation . The share in the British car market had fallen to 15 percent by 1987, and the lack of expansion of the dealer network, especially in continental Europe , made it impossible to compensate for the lack of sales on the home market with exports, as was the case with other manufacturers.

Participating companies

Here is a list of the companies and brand names that were grouped under British Leyland. The date corresponds to the time the name was first used. This information is often not clearly identifiable. The list is structured according to the current owners of the trademark rights (status 2009).

Trademark rights today: PACCAR Corp.

Trademark rights today: BMW

  • 1898 Riley
  • 1923 Triumph Motor Company
  • 1959 Mini , the first vehicles appeared as Morris Mini-Minor and Austin Seven, later used as a separate brand in the group

Trademark rights today: Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation

  • 1895 Wolseley
  • 1905 Austin
  • 1912 Morris
  • 1913 Vanden Plas (trademark rights outside North America)
  • 1923 MG , established by Morris for the brand's sports cars
  • 1929 American Austin
  • 1952 Austin Healey , established by Austin for the brand's sports cars (rights shared with Healey Automotive Consultants (HAC), who owns the Healey trademark)
  • 1975 Princess , own brand for the successor to the Austin / Morris 1800, which initially appeared as the Austin Princess

Trademark rights today: Tata

Trademark rights today: BAE Systems

Trademark rights today: BSA Regal Group

Trademark rights today: British Motor Heritage

Trademark rights today: FIAT


  • 1910 Daimler is bought by BSA
  • 1931 BSA buys Lanchester. (1956 there is the last Lanchester)
  • 1938 Morris, Wolseley and Riley merge to form the Nuffield Organization
  • 1944 Standard buys Triumph Cars and becomes Standard Triumph
  • 1946 Austin buys Vanden Plas
  • 1952 the Nuffield Organization and Austin merge to form British Motor Corporation (BMC)
  • 1960 Jaguar buys the car names from BSA, especially Daimler
  • 1961 Leyland Motors buys Standard Triumph
  • 1965 Rover buys Alvis
  • 1966 BMC and Jaguar merge to form British Motor Holdings
  • 1967 Leyland takes over Rover
  • 1968 Leyland merges with British Motor Holdings to form British Leyland Motor Corporation
  • 1975 Due to massive financial problems, the company is nationalized and renamed British Leyland Limited .
British Leyland , associations of automobile brands and owners from 1890 to 1975
brand 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s
jaguar SS Cars jaguar jaguar BMH British Leyland
Daimler Daimler BSA BSA
Lanchester Lanchester
Mini BMC
Riley Riley Nuffield organization
MG Morris Garages (MG)
Morris Morris Morris
Wolseley Wolseley
Austin Austin Austin
Vanden Plas Vanden Plas
rover rover rover rover
Land Rover
Alvis Alvis
default default Standard triumph Leyland Motors
triumph Dawson triumph
Leyland Leyland


  • 1978 Land Rover is established as an independent company within BL
  • 1979 collaboration with Honda
  • 1981 Alvis is sold to United Scientific Holdings
  • 1982 British Leyland becomes the Austin Rover Group (ARG), but without Jaguar and Daimler under the Jaguar Cars Holdings to be continued
  • 1983 Signing of a contract with Honda to develop a joint mid-range car
  • 1984 the production of Morris Ital expires, which means the end of the Morris emblem
  • 1984 Jaguar splits off (including Daimler and the US rights to Vanden Plas)
  • 1986 Austin Rover is renamed the Rover Group , the Austin emblem disappears the following year
  • 1987 Leyland Bus splits off and is bought by Volvo in 1988
  • 1987 Leyland Trucks and Vans is sold to DAF and the vehicles are now offered as DAF-Leyland. The Vans (vans) are 1993 independent LDV , the truck factory is again independent in the same year and Leyland Trucks, which in 1998 by Paccar adopted and Foden are fused
  • 1987 Unipart, BL's spare parts manufacturer is sold through a management buy-out
  • In 1988 the Rover Group is privatized and British Aerospace sold
  • 1994 the Rover Group is sold to BMW - this ends the cooperation with Honda
  • 2000 Under pressure from its shareholders, BMW sells the Rover Group for a symbolic price. Land Rover goes to Ford , Mini stays with BMW, as do the unused brands “Standard”, “Triumph” and “Riley”.
  • 2000 the company is now called MG Rover Group
  • 2005 MG Rover Group ends automobile production
British Leyland , spin-offs and sales of the brands from 1976
Brand before 1976 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s Automobile brand today
6th 7th 8th 9 0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 0 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9
jaguar British Leyland jaguar ford Tata jaguar
Daimler not used
Lanchester not used
Vanden Plas  (North America) Execution reference
Freight Rover (since 1981) BL (Land Rover Leyland Group) Rover Group DAF ( DAF-Leyland ) LDV GAS LDV
Leyland Leyland Paccar ( DAF ) DAF
Leyland bus Volvo Volvo (bus)
Land Rover Rover Group British Aerospace BMW ford Tata Land Rover
Rover (brand) BL (Austin Rover Group) BMW ford not used
Rover (model rights) BMW Phoenix Consortium
( MG Rover Group )
SAIC Roewe
Rover (works) Phoenix Consortium
( MG Rover Group )
Nanjing SAIC -
Morris not used
Wolseley not used
Austin not used
Austin-Healey Austin-Healey
Vanden Plas (Europe) not used
Mini BMW Mini (BMW)
Riley not used
triumph not used
default BMW British Motor Heritage not used
Alvis British Leyland United Scientific Holdings Alvis plc Alvis Vickers BAE Systems not used

The main models from BL and BMC up to 1986


  • Because of the difficulties mentioned and the quality problems, the name British Leyland was often derided as British misery in the German-speaking world .
  • CEO Michael Edwardes described his time at British Leyland in a book as an "apocalyptic experience".


  • Church, Roy: The rise and decline of the British motor industry . 1st edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995, ISBN 0-521-55770-4 , The vicissitudes and collapse of a 'national champion', pp. 88 ff .
  • Cowin, Chris: British Leyland: Chronicle of a Car Crash 1968–1978. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Seattle, WA 2012, ISBN 978-1-4775-6067-9 .
  • Daniels, Jeff: British Leyland: the truth about the cars . Osprey Publishing, London 1980, ISBN 0-85045-392-5 .
  • Tolliday, Steven: Competition and the Workplace in the British Automobile Industry. 1945-1988 . In: Perkins, Edwin J. (Ed.): Business and Economic History On-Line (BEH On-Line) (=  The Proceedings of the Business History Conference ). No. 17 . Proquest, 1988, ISSN  1941-7349 , pp. 63 ff . (British English, online [accessed on April 17, 2013] Brief but very intensive consideration especially on the role of the trade unions and contemporary comparisons with the situation of other European car manufacturers, very good list of sources).
  • Wood, Jonathan: Wheels of misfortune: the rise and fall of the British motor industry . Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1988, ISBN 0-283-99527-0 .

Web links

Commons : British Leyland Motor Corporation  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Tractor Lexicon: Leyland  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. Great Britain / Dept. of Industry / Secretary of State for Industry (Ed.): British Leyland, the next decade: an abridged version of a report presented to the Secretary of State for Industry / by a team of inquiry led by Sir Don Ryder . Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO), London 1975, ISBN 0-10-023425-9 (This paper later became known as the "Ryder Report". An online version is here .).
  2. ^ Central Policy Review Staff (Ed.): The future of the British car industry; report by the Central Policy Review Staff . Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO), London 1975, ISBN 0-11-700566-5 (This paper was created parallel to the Ryder Report and presented the situation much more realistically.).
  3. Bulky to the front. Der Spiegel, September 17, 1979, accessed on July 22, 2016 .
  4. Together we are weak: The merger to form British Leyland ruined Auto-England in 1968. WAZ NewMedia GmbH & Co. KG (, February 18, 2008, accessed on April 17, 2013 .
  5. ^ Edwardes, Michael: Back from the brink: an apocalyptic experience . Collins, London 1983, ISBN 0-00-217098-1 (monograph).