Archive : 30 years ago today – Leyland Trucks is sold off

On 19 February 1987, Graham Day’s Rover Group continued its march towards privatisation. Selling off loss-making Leyland Trucks – as it was described back then – was seen as an important first step in getting the company shipshape for its impending sell off to British Aerospace.

This is how the papers were reporting the events back then.

Storm as Leyland trucks is sold off

Dutch Company Favourite To Take-over Loss Maker

The Government was at the centre of a row last night over plans to sell off Leyland Trucks to a Dutch company. Ministers are reporting to have given the go-ahead for the sale of BL Trucks to DAF, with a possible 20,000 job losses. They are certain to face embarrassing questions about the project in the Commons today.

Rumours have been rife for months and the State-owned lorry firm – which is reputedly losing £1 million a week – is to be sold off. But there is much nervousness in Government circles about the decision, which could involve writing off millions of pounds of Austin Rover debts to make the deal attractive.

Previous attempted to sell off thwarted

Previous attempts to sell off the lorry making and Land-Rover division to General Motors of America had to be scrapped following furious opposition on all sides of the House. According to BBC TV News, the sale plan has been chosen from one of a series of options in the new corporate plan for British Leyland, drawn up by Chairman Graham Day.

The report has been kept under wraps since Christmas and the Cabinet is due to discuss it this morning. DAF has a long-established cooperative association with Leyland and may be negotiating either a joint venture or a complete buy-out. Before the Cabinet gives the go-ahead, it may seek assurances about the future job prospects in the Lancashire-based lorry factory – now regarded as one of the most technically advanced in Europe.

Up to 20,000 jobs at stake

Last night, (Liberal/SDP) Alliance employment spokesman Malcolm Bruce claimed he had received leaked information about the proposed sale. He said: ‘This decision has been made in the face of a strong alternative bid from the American firm Paccar, who already own the British Foden lorry concern.

‘I understand it could lead to the loss of over 20,000 jobs as manufacturing is transferred to Holland over a five-year period.’ He claimed factories in Watford, Lancaster and Glasgow would be worst hit, ‘This would effectively mean the liquidation of Leyland Trucks and the destruction of our jobs and capability in this area,’ he said.

‘It seems that, because of the outcry over earlier proposals to sell to American companies, the Government has decided in favour of the European bidder. In this case however the decision seems to be against the best interests of both jobs and the British truck industry.’

A Commons motion to be called

Mr Bruce has tabled a Commons motion calling on the Government to reconsider its plans. He will demand a statement from Trade and Industry Secretary Paul Channon in the Commons. Union leaders at Leyland, Lancashire will today question management about the sell-off.

Last night a spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the report was pure speculation and claimed that no decision has yet been taken. Rover Chairman Graham Day was not available last night because he was on a visit to Canada with his personal assistant on a ‘secret’ project.

Picture: DAF Blog

Keith Adams


  1. It was ironic that at the time the options were a sale/merger to Daf, or a sale to Paccar, as subsequently Leyland Daf went broke, which resulted in
    a) Paccar buying Daf, and
    b) A couple of years later, Paccar buying Leyland as well!

    The comments from Malcolm Bruce do look a bit like scare mongering, what factory did Leyland have in Glasgow, as Bathgate had already closed by this time?

    • There was a gap of five years before PACCAR bought Leyland. An MBO took over from to ’93 to ’98 led by the great Joe Gilchrist. Indeed the Dutch state took over the day to day running of DAF following the meltdown, selling on to PACCAR a short time later.

      Once the two firms were united again in 1998, the decision was made to drop the Leyland brand and streamline to just DAF Trucks. The old Leyland brand was seen as weak and lacking in kudos on a global scale.

  2. Malcolm Bruce made another mistake, Leyland never had a factory in Lancaster, but was based in Leyland, about 30 miles further south. However, the deal at least kept the factory in Leyland alive and it continues to this day.

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