News : Mexican stand off at LTI factory

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Andrew Elphick

Today Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC) confirmed that Manganese Bronze, parent of Taxi manufacturer London Taxis International had been placed in administration.

A statement was issued earlier today advising of the sad news:

‘Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC (the “Company”), the manufacturer of the world famous London taxi, announces that Matthew Hammond, Tony Barrell, Ian Green and Mike Jervis, all of PwC, were today appointed joint administrators (the “Administrators”) of Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC, LTI Limited, Manganese Bronze Services Limited and Manganese Bronze Property Services Limited (together the “Group”).’

The Administrators’ immediate priority is to secure funding to resolve the steering box recall announced on 12 October 2012. The Administrators are reviewing the Group’s current financial position to develop a range of options to rescue the business or alternatively dispose of its assets to an investor that can secure the future of the London taxi. The Administrators have immediately commenced discussions with a number of interested parties from the UK and overseas and ask any further interested parties to contact them as a matter of urgency.

As a result of the appointment of the Administrators to the Group, Grant Thornton UK LLP and MC Peat & Co have today resigned from their respective roles as Nominated Adviser and Broker to the Company with immediate effect. Pursuant to AIM Rule 1, if a replacement Nominated Adviser is not appointed within one month, the London Stock Exchange may cancel the admission of the Company’s securities from trading on AIM. Accordingly the potential cancellation time and date is 7.00am on 3 December 2012.

The plain facts of the situation are that with immediate effect 156 members of staff will be facing redundancy – 99 jobs from the Coventry factory, and 57 staff members across the six regional dealerships. However unconfirmed rumours suggest that staff are not taking this decision lightly – Taxi blog claimed this evening that:

‘Workers at the troubled Coventry-based maker of London black cabs are believed to have locked themselves inside their factory after being told of job losses. Manganese Bronze had to call in administrator PWC after failing to gain new funding.’

Unite expressed ‘outrage’ that 156 workers were to be made redundant and called on the Government to step in to save the manufacturer of the famous vehicle.

National officer Roger Maddison said: ‘Only last night PWC were telling us there were significant interested parties. Now the administrators are ruthlessly sacking over 150 highly-skilled workers.

‘The black cabs are world-famous and we believe this company has a future. How can PWC treat this company as a going concern with virtually no staff?

‘The black cab is part of Britain ’s car manufacturing heritage. The Government must now be on standby to save this historic company from being left to the vultures.”’

AROnline cannot confirm this news at present, but rest assured we will give you the latest news on this potential situation as it happens.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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27 Comments

  1. It’s not surprising news; if there is a buyer (and there almost certainly will be), then they won’t be needing the expensive manufacturing and assembly staff and facilities in the UK, especially when the complete article is already being manufactured in China.

    As has been proven before, as long as the brand and the PR is right, most buyers (along with most non purchasing brand enthusiasts) will simply overlook where it’s built and who owns it.

  2. If we can’t nationalise a company that makes a uniquely British product, the government must have no pride like the last lot who failed to stand up for British industry by letting Rover go way the wayside not once but twice.

  3. It has a tiny market, propped up by the London taxi regs, it will cost a fortune to put a Eu6 engine in it and it is very old, crude, technology.

    There is no real business any more and MB has lost millions for years.

    It’s dead, I’m afraid. And nobody will buy it.

  4. To be honest, I don’t really see the business case for LTi unless they were willing to constantly move forward and improve the product. Unfortunately being a one trick pony is sure to guarantee your downfall, especially if your product has a narrow market AND, just as important, no aspirational desire for it.

    The problem is that if you are a volume producer, you have to have a huge yet efficient operation (for good economies of scale) and have mass appeal (on a truly global stage).. LTi had neither of those.

    My only hope is that the workers can get some sort of a decent pay-off and that many find new jobs elsewhere.

    As for nationalisation.. That may work for railways or water but for product producers where there is poor demand for their products is complete lunacy…..

    RIP an icon…

  5. @4 this is the problem,great at inventing things but never improve or refine,Jeremy Clarksons column in the sun(i know)succintly described the problem-its not a pleasant place for the driver living in the thing all day with a upright cramped driving posistion while breaking the heads of the passengers when driving over bumps,like he said the Mini was crap and never got updated and the TX4 never moved the goalposts,its a shame,with the Taxi regs in the black cab favour why didnt the local authority have a stake in the company?

  6. I would have said that a takeover by one of the big names was the best solution, and would give them access to the latest technology, but it’s hard to see a suitor that’d be interested, given many have got problems of their own in the mass market at the moment. Volkswagen or BMW are a possibility, given their niche operations with Bentley/Rolls-Royce – but as others have said, the taxi, for all its sentimental appeal, is a low volume niche product that you can’t charge a fortune for.

  7. Maybe JLR could save the day! It would help if MB had put more effort into modernising the product and selling it in Europe.

  8. I’ve yet to read any official comment from Geely, part-owner of Manganese Bronze. It’s only 12 months ago that Geely appointed Manganese Bronze as official UK importer of Chinese-built Geely cars, with an on-sale date supposedly of late 2012.

    Will Geely step in and buy the majority share of Manganese Bronze that it doesn’t currently own, or simply walk away and appoint another UK importer for the Geely Emgrand EC7?

  9. Whether there’s a business case or not for it, I don’t know but I’d like to see Tata to buy them. They could use JLR’s (quality approved) suppliers and Tata’s network around the world. They also (I think) own the Austin name, so it could take that badge again!

  10. Again we see BAD (British Automotive Disease) strike again, where British companies keep building the same old design for eons and are surprised when the world moves on around them.

    As mentioned above LTI’s output was underdeveloped and uncomfortable to use every day. Look at cities where you get a free market for cabs and see how very few will run LTI vehicles. Comparions with MGR and LDV are well founded as both of these firms went by the wayside due to ageing model ranges.

  11. Maybe this is the inevitable consequence of the previous FX4 ceasing to be a BL product back in the early 80s; keeping such a specialist product up to date, when sales were so low, was always going to be difficult for a small independent manufacturer, the saving grace during the period was the lack of competition from the major manufacturers. Once that started, then LTi was always going to really struggle, hence the attempts to reduce costs by moving parts supply to China.

  12. I can’t imagine a circumstance where it could be justified for the government (aka Tax Payer) to step in. This company is not nationally important in so far as it contributes diddly squat to the UK coffers, any historical significance of the black-cab is just that – historical and we will never forget it, or throw away all our tea-towels or commemorative plates with one on, but it is hardly reason enough for the government to throw money at the company which clearly is not viable. The bottom line is this, Taxi’s have generally been able to source whatever car they wanted and it only a few areas that insisted the black-cab was used, if this had been different then maybe their market would have remained larger but as it is, selling on 1500 of these a year is just not enough to give the company any significant R&D income to keep developing the product. As it stands the car is merely a pastiche to an Austin from the 1940’s. Sad to see it go but nothing more.

  13. I have to agree with you there James, especially considering that Manganese Bronze turned their backs on their UK based, UK tax paying, suppliers and then, effectively, assembled Chinese kits in order to cut costs. Perhaps the Chinese tax payers might like to help them out?

  14. Give them 12 months, and they will be trying to flog fully assembled in China TX’s here in the UK. I doubt we will have seen the last of the TX

  15. Give them 12 months, and they will be trying to flog fully assembled in China TX’s here in the UK. I doubt we will have seen the last of the TX

  16. That’ll be what happens.

    All they need to do is buy the LTI brand from the administrator (Geely just won’t sound right), along with any remaining IP rights and possibly retain some connection with the old Coventry factory as a base to organise their imports from. It might even be worth retaining a token manufacturing base there, if it helps to eliminate taxes on vehicle imports from outside the EU.

    I’m sure it’s been done before somewhere.

  17. The thing is,if they were that good,why are cabbies diving into Vito’s?.Perhaps the relaxing of the hackney rules are what the drivers have been waiting for,maybe they was making thier old cabs last because the new ones were no better.

  18. Cabbies clung on to older cabs because they were simple to mend, and cheap to run, and as complex as a knife & fork. It is only the LEZ regs that are forcing cabbies to buy new tackle, and trust me, all this EuroV/VI stuff will not like London traffic. DPF faults will be rife, and Mercedes commercials already have a reputation to be a tad unreliable, and bloody expensive to fix when they do go wrong.

  19. Cabbies clung on to older cabs because they were simple to mend, and cheap to run, and as complex as a knife & fork. It is only the LEZ regs that are forcing cabbies to buy new tackle, and trust me, all this EuroV/VI stuff will not like London traffic. DPF faults will be rife, and Mercedes commercials already have a reputation to be a tad unreliable, and bloody expensive to fix when they do go wrong.

  20. @23 Dpf concerns affect anyone with so equipped vehicle,Mercs don’t really suffer massively with this because the soot algorithm in the ECU is programmed to passively regenerate at lower speeds,besides,3 year unlimited mileage warranty will give some peace of mind and loss of use for repairs is just one of those things.I can tell you now MB’s are far,far more reliable than equivalent vehicles.The Vito for which I’m no fan never really pose any issues on our long term hire fleet that run to about 4000 with various customers.The NV200 has been zero trouble at all -i heard a rumour there is a large Chinese content to these as well!
    In any case there is always LPG.

  21. ” The black cab is part of Britain ’s car manufacturing heritage. The Government must now be on standby to save this historic company from being left to the vultures.”

    Yes, it is a piece of heritage but I really can’t see the Government stepping in for 156 workers! Some business or other may well step in to save the company, modernise the black cab, seeing the heritage aspect as a valuable asset. However, in this day and age I can’t really see this happening. I think it’s most likely ‘goodbye’ to another piece of the British motor industry which never successfully moved with the times…

  22. Government support would only delay the inevitable, unless the Government was willing/stupid enough to commit long term, multi billion pound funding as it did 40 years ago to British Leyland. The best bet as noted above would be if another car company stepped in and took it under its wing. Given how troubled the European car industry is however, it would be a brave company indeed that would do that.

  23. Here’s an interesting article from the time when MBH shifted its parts sourcing and the majority of its production to China:

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2010/03/17/uk-manganesebronze-idUKTRE62G1FP20100317

    I found this section, towards the end of the article, particularly sad and ironic:

    “London-born driver Brian, who has been a cabbie for 17 years, said greater overseas control could mean lower quality parts and therefore more reliability issues, noting how cabs no longer carry a “Made in Coventry with pride” sign….The firm said in response it would never use any parts that didn’t pass strict UK regulations, or their even more stringent internal standards.”

    No comment necessary….

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