Archive : Mini still sold at a loss. BLMC says

By Clifford Webb

British Leyland are selling the Mini at a loss despite the latest price increase and the fact that after 14 years it is still their top export model. Mr John Barber, BLMC’s deputy chairman and managing director said yesterday: “The Mini is a wonderful car though I think insufficient attention was paid during the design stage to the inherent problems of production costs. Even though we have increased the price it is still not a profitable model.”

He added that because of the profitable replacement parts business generated by Mini sales it was “more in the nature of a break-even operation.”

It also improved prospects for the group’s dealers by providing them with a more complete range of models. Since it was launched in 1959 Sir Alec Issigonis’s pioneering design has introduced standards of roadholding and passenger space for small cars which have been copied by motor manufacturers throughout the world. For the first 10 years of its life it was widely known that the Mini’s complicated and expensive engineering prevented it being sold at a profitable price.

Since then, however, a number of design changes to simplify suspension and transmission-together with substantial price increases, was generally thought to have given the Mini a small profit margin. A new Mini is known to be in course of development at Longbridge, the Austin-Morris headquarters. Reliable sources suggest it will appear in a little over two years time.

In an interview published by the trade journal Motor Indtustry yesterday, Mr Barber said: “We inherited an awful lot of overlapping models. We still have too many models, including a whole range of sports cars, but you cannot chop these off overnight. You have to have a rational replacement plan.”

This reference to the present proliferation of Triumph and MG sports cars lends credence to reports that BLMC are in the final stages of developing a completely rationalized range of sports cars. What is not clear, however, is the name they will carry. Both Triumph and MG have strong followings. Experience has shown that any attempt to resort to “badge engineering” (identical cars carrying different name plates) is a failure. Mr Barber also made it clear that the corporation are still a long way from making a decision on whether or not to go ahead with the construction of the much publicized new integrated car plant to be sited outside their traditional manufacturing areas.

He said: “This would be a very exciting project but no final decisions have yet been taken. We are still looking at all possibilities. This is several years hence. We have been looking at the whole country for possible sites.”

Commenting on the threat posed by the current 30 per cent foreign penetration of the British car market, he says it would be wrong to blame labour disputes entirely for BLMC’s failure to supply.

“There has for one thing been a history of under-investment in our constituent companies in the past. This was one of the reasons for the merger. The eight companies merged into British Leyland were individually unable to afford high investment so naturally they fell behind and when the corporation was formed five years ago we had a tremendous backlog of capital expansion to catch up. We have had to spend most of our money modernizing rather than increasing capacity.”

Keith Adams


  1. “The mini is a wonderful car but I think insufficient attention was paid during the design stage to production costs” – Fair enough, but why in the name of all that’s holy are they still stomaching the loss from this, not 3, or 5, or even 10 years later – but after 14 FOURTEEN years. BMC/BL/Whatever really deserved all they got, delusional, incompetent idiots.

  2. Your right.

    The reason was that Issigonis had very strong ideas about how the Mini should be so blocked any attempts address these design flaws. In part because of his legendary stubbornness but also I suspect in part because he wanted to build a new car to replace it.

    After Issigonis was pushed aside, the injection of “Ford DNA” into both BMH and then British Leyland led to a strategy of favoring new tightly costed designs over updating / reskinning the legacy products. (It would not have been such a bad idea if the products Allegro, Princess, TR7, SD1 had not been so badly flawed, many of those flaws resulting directly from the cars being engineered down to compete with Ford’s on price rather than engineered up to be world beaters like the Ado16.)

    This meant that the focus was put on developing the Ado74 and then when the declining finances made it unaffordable, they reverted to the “parts bin special” approach with the Ado 88, which would not have been such a bad idea, if they had done it quicker but had been left behind by the market when in 77 it was urgently reworked into the Metro (LC8) which again was adequate in October 1980 but soon left behind by the market.

  3. ….He added that because of the profitable replacement parts business generated by Mini sales it was “more in the nature of a break-even operation.”….

    So they knowingly sold cars that they acknowledged were unreliable/needed lots of replacement parts, and stiffed their customers for the cost of those parts in order to make a profit.

    Kinda explains why – in the words of one BMC dealer, “you could sell a car to someone once, they’d come back a couple of years later for a new car, but after that you’d never see them again”.

    And the vast operation at Cofton Hackett/Longbridge shoving-out Gold/Silver-seal ‘reconditioned’ A-series engines/transmissions, whereas the likes of Ford would sell you an Anglia/Escort/Cortina that would go to its grave still with its original engine.

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