Parts supplier Unipart Automotive has gone into administration, putting around 1,300 jobs at risk and seeing yet another of the former elements of the BMC/BL/Austin Rover Group slide into the annals of motoring history.
While the parent group, Unipart Group, its rail operations and Car Care Centre franchises will continue to operate outside of the administrative process, the automotive components and parts counter services are likely to disappear, with the exception of 33 Unipart sites that are to be acquired by rival motor factors Andrew Page Ltd and The Parts Alliance.
That leaves around 160 Unipart Automotive sites that look set to close their doors imminently, and the Unipart name – once synonymous with OEM Austin Rover parts only – to disappear from industrial estates across the UK.
The Unipart name has had less and less of an association with the former Rover Group companies since it became independent from Austin Rover in 1987, following a management takeover. Under the deal, Unipart retained an exclusivity clause to be the sole supplier of Rover parts until 2002, though it’s not clear if the dwindling numbers of Rover cars on the roads in subsequent 12 years have had a direct impact on the Unipart Automotive business performance.
Rover Group, under BMW stewardship, tried to buy back Unipart in 1995 for 300 million pounds, but the deal was rebuffed by Unipart Chief Executive John Neill, who remains Chairman and CEO of the Unipart Group to this day.
“We are saddened by the Unipart Automotive situation,” said Neill. “But we know Andrew Page well and respect their near 100-year presence in the Automotive aftermarket. We are pleased to support (Andrew Page CEO) Jim Sumner’s plans to secure the future for a number of branches and former Unipart Automotive people.”