During the 1986 negotiations between Ford and Austin Rover, Longbridge’s future model plans were shared with the American company’s executives.
Thirty years ago this week, news of this became public knowledge – does it mean that K-Series were shared with Uncle Henry? This is how The Guardian reported the story.
Metro secrets given to Ford
The Department of Trade and Industry confirmed yesterday that Austin Rover was required to give confidential commercial information to its principal rival, Ford, at the height of merger talks last year. But officials refused to comment on Labour allegations that the former Trade and Industry Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, instructed Sir Austin Bide, the Austin Rover Group Chairman to hand over the market sensitive information.
This is despite the opposition of the state car group ‘s senior management. Labour MPs told the Commons on Wednesday that during the merger talks Ford saw the production costs of every Austin Rover model.
Cars and market data shared
They claimed that it allowed them to engage in a discount war in the showrooms last summer, which gave the Ford Fiesta a 7.4 per cent market share compared with the Austin Metro’s 4.5 per cent. Before the talks the Metro had outsold the Fiesta.
Mr Terry Davis, a Shadow Trade and Industry spokesman, described the decision as amounting to industrial sabotage. He alleged that Mr Brittan had put pressure on Sir Austin Bide and demanded to know if that act had been authorised by the Prime Minister.
Pressure from Labour
The forceful disclosure of information to a competitor amounted to negligence of the national interest, complained Labour MPs. The DTI refused to comment yesterday on whether any Government pressure had been applied on Austin Rover to enter into the reciprocal arrangement on the exchange of confidential information.
But the Government did bow to pressure from Labour and Conservative MPs that the balance of British representation on the boards of a new amalgamated Leyland Truck and DAF truck company ought to be reconsidered.