Press Comment : Vincent Hammersley on how HMG failed MGR

Graeme Brown, Birmingham Post, 11th September, 2009

Vincent Hammersley was the PR Manager for the Rover Group until the Phoenix Four took control of the company and is now Director of Communications at Warwick Business School.

Although there have been some insightful articles about Longbridge, I don’t think that anyone has yet spoken up for its workforce and management.

The image from the 70s of a strike-ridden, bolshie workforce remained in people’s minds but during the last 20 years within the company, this could not have been further from the truth.

There was not one minute lost to industrial dispute at Longbridge in 20 years. The workforce had accepted some of the most flexible working practices in Europe and all categories, from the track to senior management, worked together.

The UK Government knew that Longbridge was not a basket case as far as the quality and dedication of its workers were concerned because I arranged visits by Peter Mandelson, Stephen Byers and others. These visits gave me the impression that ministers were more interested in the photo op than wanting to help. Local MP Richard Burden was one of the few politicians who demonstrated genuine concern for the workforce.

It is about time that someone told the real story of what was behind the closure of Longbridge, from the personal battles between Bernd Pischetsrieder and Wolfgang Reitzle for control of BMW, to the innuendo regarding John Towers and the team who provided five years that the plant would not have had under Jon Moulton or anyone else for that matter.” Vincent Hammersley, Director of Communications, Warwick Business School.

I find comments about the “millions of taxpayers’ pounds pumped into Longbridge” frustrating. It costs hundreds of millions of pounds to develop a new car, make the tooling and bring it to the market. The relatively small amounts allotted by successive governments were simply to prevent the patient dying on their shift.

Major, planned investment was never put into our motor industry. The French, German and Italian Governments supported their industry with much larger investment – and they all still have a motor industry.

It is about time that someone told the real story of what was behind the closure of Longbridge, from the personal battles between Bernd Pischetsrieder and Wolfgang Reitzle for control of BMW, to the innuendo regarding John Towers and the team who provided five years that the plant would not have had under Jon Moulton or anyone else for that matter.

The task of the Phoenix Group was to find a partner who would be willing to provide the cash to develop a new range of vehicles and distribute them to a global market. John Towers and his team worked towards this aim but, with a global overcapacity for vehicle production, no other car maker was keen to join forces. In fact, car manufacturers were keen to see the 260,000 production capacity of Longbridge taken out of the equation for good.

I hope any future Government will have the capacity the think beyond their own narrow political interests and to develop a long-term strategy for the manufacturing sector before we lose it completely.

[Source: Birmingham Post]

Posted in: AROnline News, MG Rover
Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

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