By Clifford Webb
British Leyland’s new Mini Metro will be launched in October with an updated version of one of the company’s existing engines. Later models may be powered by a Japanese Honda engine.
The deal has not yet been completed, but reliable sources suggest that the Honda power unit will be built in Britain under licence in about two years’ time. BL’s existing deal with Honda calls for a medium-sized Japanese family saloon to be assembled at its Cowley plant next year. It will have a British- built body but the engine and transmission will be imported. Initially the Metro will be powered by an updated version of the long-running “A” series BMC unit, fitted to the whole of the existing Mini range and the smaller engined versions of the Allegro and Marina.
With the Metro project already costing £275m, it was clearly impossible for the financially strained group to gamble a further £100m on the development of a new engine incorporating advanced technology to cope with the fuel economy and low pollution requirements of the next 10 to 15 years. In any event, BL did not, and does not, have sufficient engineering capability to undertake such a project in addition to its existing new car programme.
It is understood that during talks with Honda, BL engineers were shown two engines in the final stages of development which impressed them. The smaller of the two immediately suggested itself for the Metro. Last night, a BL spokesman said: “We cannot comment on something which may or may not happen.”