History : Brand ownership

Many of you will know that the Rover name was owned by BMW and licensed to MG Rover – but following the disollution of the Longbridge-based company in 2005 and the subsequent purchase of the remaining assets to Nanjing (forming NAC-MG), it was retained by Ford as part of the original licence agreement with BMW for an undisclosed sum (estimated to be about £10m).

However, the ownership of some of the other marque/model names by NAC-MG is less widely known. And following SAIC’s takeover of NAC, all Chinese rights moved to this company. Ford’s ownership has now passed to Tata.

Thanks to the good people at the MG-Rover.org forums, we are able to present a fascinating list detailing the ownership of the various BMC>Rover names…

Marque names
Name Current owner
Austin SAIC
Austin-Healey * SAIC
Austin Healey SAIC
Morris * SAIC
Princess SAIC
Riley BMW
Rover Tata
Sterling SAIC
Triumph BMW
Vanden Plas SAIC
Wolseley * SAIC
Model names
Name Current owner
Austin-Healey Sprite * SAIC
BMC Special Tuning Abingdon SAIC
Clubman BMW
Dolomite BMW
Kestrel BMW
Magna SAIC
Maxi BMW
Metro BMW
MG Magnette SAIC
MG Express SAIC
MG Magnette SAIC
Midget * SAIC
MINI Cooper Monte Carlo BMW
MINI Mayfair BMW
Montaine SAIC
Montego SAIC
Morris Minor * SAIC
Princess SAIC
Rover Sport BMW
Rover 100 Series BMW
Rover 200 Series N/A
Rover 400 Series N/A
Rover 600 Series BMW
Rover 800 Series N/A
Rover 25 BMW
Rover 35 BMW
Rover 45 BMW
Rover 55 BMW
Rover 75 BMW
Spitfire BMW
Stag BMW
Streetwise SAIC
Vitesse SAIC
Westminster SAIC
Miscellaneous names
Name Current owner
Connoisseur SAIC
Countryman BMW
Hairpins SAIC
Kensington SAIC
Knightsbridge BMW
Quest SAIC
Sprite SAIC
Steptronic BMW
Stepspeed SAIC
Straights SAIC
TR 4 Triumph BMW
Vitesse SAIC
100 Ascot BMW

* NB: MG Rover acquired the rights to the asterisked trade marks from British Motor Heritage (for use in spare parts) on 10th December 2003 – and these were passed to SAIC in 2005

Who is British Motor Heritage?

British Motor Heritage Limited was established in 1979 [as BL Heritage Ltd] to support owners and the marketplace by putting body shells and genuine components for classic British cars back into manufacture, using original tools wherever possible. Since November 2001, when the company was acquired from BMW, it has been owned by the present directors who collectively have over 60 years experience with the former Rover Group.

British Motor Heritage owns the Heritage trademark and Heritage Motor Parts brand, and is licensed by MG Rover or BMW to use MG, Mini, Austin-Healey, Triumph, Rover, Austin, Morris, Riley, Wolseley and Special Tuning trademarks and logos. Through its approval process, it is responsible for the licensing of vehicle, merchandise and publishing products and outlets using the non-current trademarks and logos owned by BMW and MG Rover. It is a Member of the Institute of Vehicle Engineers and Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs.

The above text has been taken from the website of British Motor Heritage Ltd.

Based on original research by Ian Robertson.
Thanks to Laurence Curtis for further information.
All the names listed above are trade marks, according to the UK Patent Office.

Posted in: History
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

5 Comments on "History : Brand ownership"

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  1. David 3500 says:

    “However, the ownership of some of the other marque/model names by NAC-MG is less widely known. And following SAIC’s takeover of NAC, all Chinese rights moved to this company. Ford’s ownership has now passed to Tata.” In the last sentence I am sure you mean that ownership of the Rover marque has now passed to Tata, rather than Ford Motor Company itself being acquired by Tata?

    The Vitesse name was first used in 1914 by Austin, then from 1934 by Triumph. The Rover marque then used it from October 1982 and even Land Rover used it for a limited edition Range Rover for the North American market in 1997.

    The ‘Westminster’ name is an interesting one as Land Rover used it in 2001 for a limited edition Range Rover derivative in the 38A range, and again in 2009 for the current L322 line-up. I wonder what the current arrangement is for Land Rover’s continued use of the name?

    It does raise an interesting question over whether titled ownership of a sub-brand is enough to prevent another marque under different ownership from being allowed to use it.

  2. Michael Allen says:

    Great list. Are there any other British marques not owned by the big boys?

  3. jools23 Julian Mildren says:

    So, if BMW own the Rover name, do they also own the Alvis name as Rover bought them out in teh mid 60’s?

  4. Paul Taylor Paul T says:


    Another point – it says BMW own the MINI name, but as we know MINI and ‘Mini’ are NOT the same. So, do the capital letters make a difference or not in terms of ownership of the word ‘mini’?

  5. David 3500 says:

    @ Hornet:

    The use of uppercase letters for MINI by BMW was actually their way of suggesting that they wanted to ‘go beyond’ what had previously been achieved with the name under British ownership. In other words, not be too constrained by just the one bodystyle and heritage but instead build the name into more of a global brand, which they have successfully achieved. You could also argue that MINI rather than Mini would also overcome some of the other design and manufacturing shortcomings of the original car.

    The use of uppercase lettering also neatly links in with that for the BMW abbreviation.

    @ Julian Mildren:

    That is a very good question. When The Rover Company Ltd acquired Alvis in 1965 it certainly had plans to launch new models (using components from the Rover P6) under the Alvis name. These was potentially the Alvis GTS (nicknamed as ‘Gladys’) and possibly also the mid-engined P6BS.

    However, last year there was an announcement that the Alvis name will once again adorn ‘new’ cars although I think these are potentially rebuilt versions of the TE21 using remanufactured parts – if I am wrong on this please correct me!

    The rights to the Alvis name have never been brought up before by enthusiasts, to my knowledge.

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