News : Ashok Leyland to open R&D facility in the UK

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble/Bus and Coach magazine

Return of the roundel? Ashok Leyland show more commitment to the UK market & manufacturing base.
Return of the roundel? Ashok Leyland show more commitment to the UK market & manufacturing base.

Ashok Leyland, the owner of Optare, is to open a Research and Development Centre at the MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton, creating 30 jobs. The decision was confirmed during this week’s visit to India by prime minister David Cameron.

Ashok Leyland increased its shareholding in the Yorkshire-based Optare group which was the former British Leyland owned body manufacturer Charles H. Roe. Along with ECW of Lowestoft – another BL-owned concern which closed in the 1980s, Roe became surplus to requirements with the contraction of  Leyland bus manufacturing following the Transport Deregulation act 1985.

When ECW shut down, Roe was subject to a management buy out from plant director Russell Richardson and flourished during the minibus boom and survived where others faded away. Optare more recently became victim to the threat of hostile take over from the Falkirk-based Alexander Dennis Group spurring Ashok Leyland to confirm their long term commitment to Optare, its Sherburn-in-Elmet production plant and British engineering tallent by increasing their shareholding to a majority position.

Sam Burman, Ashok Leyland’s Chief Technical Officer, said: ‘We have some problems to hire people and find skills in India and we think we can find those skills in the UK.’

Story: Bus and Coach magazine

After more than 30 years a new product with a Leyland name will be tested at MIRA
After more than 30 years a new product with a Leyland name will be tested at MIRA

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

26 Comments

  1. “…spurning Ashok Leyland to confirm their long term commitment to Optare…”

    Spurning?? Hardly – I think/hope you mean spurring.

  2. The Leyland roundel on the front of the Solo SR was shown in India nigh on 18 months ago now. They plan to re enter the double deck market in a year or so they claim, and they’ve recently registered one of their integrals for the road, so it can be properly tested. They are going to need to work hard to win back the operators who bought deckers off them, as they’ve all found alternatives, including Wright, who now make lowheight double decks, and First have ordered a load of Wright lamp posts instead of Solos

  3. It’s interesting to read that they are having problems finding the engineering skills in India but that they think they can find them in the UK; almost every other article you read in the press tells the opposite story.

    They’d better not bring ‘the L-word’ back into use in the UK, though – they’d be laughed to kingdom come.

    Still, good news is good news.

  4. It’s good news, and with resonance for SAIC’s investment in R&D at Longbridge. Are we one step nearer what must be the holy grail for AROnliners – the return of the Leyland roundel to new products on sale in the UK?

  5. i hope so bring back british leyland the sooner the better, i loved the 70s and 80s long live BL…. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT EH..LOL

  6. Why do they need a separate R&D centre anyway? Surely Optare will have their own technical facilities in Yorkshire?

    Volvo own what was Leyland Bus, Leyland Trucks are part of Paccar, I presume between the two of them the right to badge vehicles ‘Leyland’ in the UK are tightly controlled?

  7. Volvo Bus own the rights to the Leyland Bus name in the UK so it would have to badged differently.

    However, I seem to recall that as part of the merger between Optare and East Lancashire Coachbuilders it came with a research and design team that was part of the original Leyland empire and which Volvo had decided it no longer needed. I take it they were closed down also in one of Optare’s many reconstructions?

  8. They are using the Leyland Roundel in their advertising blurb as part of the Ashok-Leyland empire, so I have a feeling they can use the logo, as they by the looks now own it.

    There is no room at the Sherburn plant for R&D facilities to be honest, so MIRA is ideal, especially with the huge ‘playground’ it has, as well as onsite labs & workshops.

  9. Not sure I’d bring back the roundel- its damaged goods as far as image goes. Yes, of course Leyland produced some very worthy products (particularly their truck division) but for too many punters it will bring back painful memories of British Leyland cars. And chain-smoking, crashy-riding Leyland Nationals…

  10. I do have a feeling in my water though that the Ashok-Leyland 4×4 truck may end up CKD assembled at Sherburn for the MOD

  11. One of the interesting things about Ashok-Leyland is that it is owned by the Hinduja brothers, who have been based in London since 1979, so you could argue that it is British owned…

    I still suspect that while corporately they can use the Leyland roundel, there will be restrictions on its use on vehicles? As the last vehicles with a Leyland badge were pretty decent (e.g. Olympian, the Leyland DAF trucks) I don’t see the Leyland name as being bad for sales, indeed Leyland vehicles have a better image than say Optare ones…

  12. Optare isn’t a watchword for quality, and never really has been. Build quality at times made East Lancs bodies look well made. They still cannot sort electrics to save their lives either

  13. I dont think the Leyland name will make a difference as many have probably forgotten the dubious heritage of the 70’s and 80’s. Your fogetting its 20 years since the name existed on a vehicle in this country

  14. I never realised that Charles H Roe were part of Leyland too. In the 1960’s South Shields Corporation had a fleet of Daimler CCG6 and Fleetline buses with Roe bodies. One of the CCG’s still exists in preservation.

    Good to hear of confidence & investment in Optare – hopefully it will bear fruits of further success.

  15. Optare certainly needs a boost, they abdicated East Lancs’ share of the double decker market, while the new Wright Streetlite is targeting Solo customers. They’re a distant 3rd behind the other domestic bus producers (how nice that there are actually domestic producers in this sector!)

  16. Even the Egyptians are muscling in on the double deck market. Orders for the MCV double decker are starting to pick up. First, surprisingly have put most of their next bulk order with ADL, with Wright supplying Streetlites to replace First’s rapidly aging Solo fleet

  17. In the West Mids, NXWM and NXC have gone mad for ADL Enviro400 and Wright/Volvo B7L types. ADL Enviro400h and the (ridiculously torquey) Wright/Volvo B5LH make up the Hybrid contingent.

    Couple of Optares still (barely) running but they’re being they’re for the chop soon.

    Unlike the Volvos (and even the ADL’s) I’m skeptical about the quality of product that’ll eventually be available as a result. Durability and electrics are a concern.

  18. If they wanted to sell Leyland buses in Australia, they could be onto something. I work in the bus industry & Leyland have a gilt edged reputation here, even though the last were sold in the 80’s.

  19. I think it would be fantastic to see the leyland name back on our roads again if only to wind up clarkson

  20. I drove past the now booming truck factory at Leyland just recently and whilst the vehicles wear D A F badging all the modern signage refers to Leyland Trucks. I’d like to see the return of the “plughole” roundrel but wonder who actually owns the rights to use the badge in the UK.

    • The roundel logo is used in the UK by Optare Bus (owned by the Indian Ashok Group) if you see their plant in Sherburn-In-Elmet, you will spot a glorious illuminated roundel on the wall of their brand new factory.

      The last Leyland trucks to feature the badge were a batch of export Comet trucks. Bringing the badge back on UK trucks would not be a good idea as the Leyland name holds bad memories and little credibility on a global scale. Oddly enough, this year marks the 21st anniversary of the collapse of LEYLAND DAF which saw Leyland Trucks LTD become management owned from 93 to 98… After that, PACAAR purchased Leyland Trucks to join DAF who they bought in 1994.

      Despite the collapse, both companies continued to trade with the Dutch arm state run until the U.S buy out. The only casualty long term was LDV who were not included by the Dutch state bail out or the Leyland Trucks M.B.O. They also became management owned hence the re brand…. But the rest as they say… Is history!

  21. I would have to disagree about the Leyland name holding bad memories as far as the truck industry is concerned. PACCAR has never been afraid to publicise news about Leyland Trucks, and I have never seen anything but positive publicity in recent times when it has featured either in the general or trucking press.

    • Maybe I should clarify Ian, the name has no clout within the customer base, in the trade its known as death by association. A huge dealer and operator survey was undertaken a few years back after the collapse and it was best seen as simply calling the group DAF. Mainland Europe is a cut throat world for trucks and to have two brands, two names, two cultures does not and will not work.

      We ought to remember one very important thing here Ian, LEYLAND TRUCKS only exists name wise as a manufacturing company operating within the PACAAR / DAF empire and not as a stand alone brand.

      True, they do proudly state the superb quality and efficiency of the plant whenever they can but if you knew what they did with so much archive material after they took control in 1998 you would weep. It was only existing sympathetic management and petitioning from the BCVM did it pass into hands that would preserve it… Many important items such as documents and items from the once impressive and expansive technical college were simply earmarked for the skip.

      One thing is true, PACAAR also have no empathy for heritage and past history. Mention the Leyland DAF era or T45 within high level and you would think you’ve sworn at the Queen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*