Blog : BBC Radio 4’s The Reunion – The Collapse of British Leyland

Radio 4 - The Reunion

If you didn’t get the chance to listen to Radio 4’s The Reunion last Sunday, you missed a treat. The show focused on the collapse of British Leyland and brought together Harold Musgrove, former Shop Steward, John Power, Commercial Apprentice, Chris Green and Alison Harper, the company’s first female Clay Modeller.

Bringing it all together was Radio 4’s Kirsty Wark, while former Top Gear Presenter Chris Goffey provided a Motoring Journalist’s perspective. He said: ‘My first experience of Longbridge was turning up in a foreign test car, and being told I couldn’t bring it through the gates – I had to park it out on the street.’ That had Musgrove interject by saying, ‘that’s reasonable – I arranged that for Longbridge and also for Cowley.’

That particular memory kicked off the show and made me smile. When working as a contract IT Support Engineer for BT Centrica back in the late-1990s, one of my jobs was to support Rover’s three main sites in the Midlands – Longbridge, Solihull and Gaydon. The first time I turned up there in my company Peugeot 406, I was told the same thing: ‘No foreign cars on site, Sir,’ Over the security guard’s shoulder I could see a number of BMWs lined up alongside the 800s and 600s.

Anyway, I digress…

The show is an absolute gem of a thing, and a 45-minute microcosm of the trouble and strife – the divisions – that dogged BLMC, Rover and MG Rover right to the end.

I won’t share too much on here because it’s definitely worth your time out. At one point, Chris Goffey interrupts Harold Musgrove, who’d just shared how he’d taken on Roy Axe to sort out the styling by saying, ‘despite all that you went ahead with the Allegro, one of the ugliest cars in the business!’ Harold calmly replies, ‘it’s good of you to say so. It’s remarkable how people say such silly things. I wasn’t involved in making the Allegro, and that’s a very stupid thing to say, if I may say so.’

On sleeping on nightshifts, Musgrove says this: ‘I decided I’d go to Cowley and have a look. I got in there about 11.30 one evening and there’s a man there asleep on the bench. I said: “Hey you – you should be working.” He said, “I agree with you Sir, but I’ve been here since eight o’clock and that track hasn’t moved.” There was a shortage of materials for the vehicles to be built, and as far as he was concerned, the track had stopped – it wasn’t his fault. And that’s why I got rid of a lot of the Cowley people.’

Get the programme listened to and let us know what you thought of it in the Comments section below.

Keith Adams


  1. Keith: good article as usual and a very interesting radio programme. Forgive me, but the grammarian in me can’t help but ask if “feedback” is a verb? I will now be “feedbacking” my impressions. Imagine a smiling yellow face here!

    Whilst everything was quite fascinating, and there is nothing like hearing the primary source voices of those who were part of the British Leyland debacle, unfortunately, like re-telling the Second World War, the apocalyptic ending is always the same. A sad story of union and management short-sightedness, both Labour and Tory government incompetence, etc…

    It was interesting in the radio programme to hear of the clumsiness of partly building the Triumph Stag in Speke 1, another part in Speke 2, and then finishing the car in the Midlands, If that amount of travel seems a bit over the top, how about the AC 428? Its motor and transmission would be shipped to Thames-Ditton from Detroit, Michigan. The basic chassis and wheels would be sent from the AC Works over to Turin, where Frua would place the Maserati Mistrale/Monteverdi-looking body…only to ship the whole thing back to Thames-Ditton for upholstering, dashboard, instruments, brakes, etc.

    • The Cadillac Allante had a rather long production route. GM created an air bridge with three 747s used to transport the Pininfarina body to Detroit for the rest to be added. Cadillac claimed it to be the works biggest production line.

  2. ERRATA above: My second paragraph should start with: “Whilst everything was quite fascinating…” and at the end of the second line of paragraph three, there should be no “l” after “car”. Sorry!

  3. I listened to it twice, the loss of Longbridge and our motorcar industry and its cars is like a death of a familiar lifelong friend.

    What struck me most was that, even after all these years, they still aren’t listening to each other, let alone trying to look at the other’s perspective.

  4. I listened to the programme.

    I was annoyed with Goffey because he made so many mistakes, not only associating Musgrove and Axe with the sign off of the Allegro, but saying that Edwards arrived with the full support of Thatcher (appointed under the Labour Government and in the end sacked by Thatcher) and the Acclaim was built at Longbridge (instead of Cowley). Although he did make a good point about the Stag’s dispersed production.

    But the thing that annoyed me most, was that the Ryder Plan was presented as being a good and proper plan, rather than the impossible “fudge” that it was. This would then have put a different reflection on Edwardes’ time, showing it not as the “Thatcher-inspired hatchet job” it was presented as, but “emergency surgery” once the politicians accepted that the Ryder Plan was never going to deliver.

    • Agreed – Goffey also did his bit to perpetuate the myth that the Acclaim was simply “nailed together” (as he put it) from a kit of Japanese parts. It wasn’t quite like that.

      Acclaim production had considerably more UK input than a classic CKD assembly operation. Some components like seats were UK sourced but far more importantly, the body was pressed from British steel at Cowley.

      The press lines incorporated the first large hydraulic press for production use to be built by the British press tool industry. (Wilkins & Mitchell and Hydraulic Engineers of Chester worked with BL to build it).

      Considerable investment was made in construction of the Acclaim press lines at Cowley, with 1500 truck loads of earth removed. They were capable of producing a complete Acclaim side panel in one piece, which improved build quality, reduced welds and reduced cost.

      That was a major reason the Acclaim had enough “UK content” as officially assessed to qualify as a “UK-manufactured” car (as opposed to “a Japanese-manufactured car exported in kit form for overseas assembly” – which would be the case in a classic CKD operation). Therefore BL could export it tariff-free to EEC markets (where it sold very well) and also supplied other markets like Spain (not in the EEC until ’86) where Japanese cars were restricted.

      Acclaim was able to successfully circumvent the strict quotas applied by both France and Italy on imports of Japanese cars (though Fiat put up a fight in Italy) and BL enjoyed a sales boost in both those markets as a result. (It was a clever move – as there was significant interest and pent-up demand for “Japanese style” cars in such countries).

      Secondly, there was no question of it falling under the 11% market share quota that applied to Japanese cars in the UK – which was already divided up between Toyota, Nissan etc. who fiercely guarded their respective “slice”. If both the points above had not been true – the whole project would have made no sense.

      The Acclaim was still a car of Japanese conception of course, but in manufacturing terms it counted as a “British car” in the same ways the Minis built in Australia counted as “Australian cars”.

      People “down the pub” don’t want to believe that – but I would expect a seasoned motoring journalist to describe the venture better.

      Another point from that radio programme (related to Ryder) is how the actual words of the 1975 Ryder Report were quoted very selectively by the trade union guy. The Ryder Report actually says:

      “We do not subscribe to the view that all the ills of British Leyland can be laid at the door of a strike-prone and work-shy labour force. Nevertheless, it is clear that if British Leyland is to compete effectively there must be a reduction in the man-hours lost through industrial disputes.”

      The trade union representative on the BBC programme reduced that (at 34.20 minutes) to simply: “the ills of Leyland cannot be laid on the backs of a strike-prone or work-shy labour force…” – which rather alters the meaning!

      • I agree entirely.

        I think these “reunions” need to be conducted under the moderation of an historian to keep the contributions honest.

        I was disappointed that key things were missed, such as the “wishful thinking” of the Ryder Plan and the battles Edwardes and Musgrove had to get the finance from the Treasury for the M cars, Honda partnership and K-Series and just how little money it was compared with the development budgets of their competitors.

    • Indeed, Goffey was absolutely hopeless in that – of all the journalists out there that they could have picked.

  5. I wonder if part of the problem with BL was revealed in this interview, in terms of Musgrove’s tone towards Goffey? Like it or lump it, the motoring press was the route through which the public were introduced to BL’s new products, and a big part of how potential customers started to form a first impression of BL’s new cars. Musgrove’s attitude to Goffey in the show was telling; Goffey got something wrong, so was shouted down. As well as that he was humiliated at the gate of the factory when turning up to do his job, because he had the temerity to turn up in a foreign car (bearing in mind motoring journalists pretty much drive what they’re given – it’s unlikely he’d have purchased what he turned up in). Yes, Goffey got facts wrong (re. the Allegro), but a good representative of a company would have dealt with that point with a great deal more charm and politeness.

    Annoying the press in this way was never going to do BL any favours. Any motoring journalist hearing such tales of BL’s antics towards journos from colleagues, or experiencing such things first hand, might have been less charitable to BL when reviewing their cars. That’s human nature – judgement has already been coloured to some extent.

    Plus the whole “no foreign cars on site” thing just suggests the competition weren’t watched/treated as a reality, and that a “British is best” attitude would see them through. Blinkered thinking, in other words. It came back and bit them big time too, when they ended up assembling Honda Ballades.

    Was Musgrove being a grumpy old man in this show, or reverting to attitudes he held when at BL?

    To me this is an indication that the management were a serious problem – maybe as great as, or greater than, the problem of the unions at the time. If management can’t bring themselves to deal with the press in a civil manner, how on earth did they treat their workforce?

    Strikes? In that climate, quelle surprise?

    • I agree in part, but it was a stupid comment by Goffey and of course we only hear the edited highlights on the programme, given the other lazy populist statements he made we don’t know what other dung he was flinging about BL in the meeting.

      I recall the “no foreign cars on site” policy in my dealings with BL in the late ’80s – it was not driven by a “our products are best”, but a realisation that BL’s ongoing survival was essential for almost all their suppliers, so they needed to remind their suppliers which side their bread was buttered when it came to buying their company cars.

      However, the BL “it will do attitude” towards the press is legendary and they would have done well to look after the likes of Goffey a lot better, even if it appears he rivals Clarkson’s ability to be a knob.

      I have heard that Musgrove was as hard as nails, but he was a product of BL’s battles of the ’70s not the making of them and represented the tough no-nonsense management team selected by Edwardes to do the brutal but essential restructuring which the Ryder Plan and previous management had avoided doing.

      • Yes Musgrove had nothing but contempt for the press and didnt have the nouce to understand how damaging that could be. I remember the Posh Boys at Car Magazine made him a laughing stock during the 800 launch for his rambling speeches and when challenged on why the car didnt have ABS as standard like the Granada Mk3, saying that the Rover didnt need it because it was front wheel drive!

  6. Great to hear so many different perspectives about the ‘National Champion’ and the many problems it faced over the decades. I wish Harold Musgrove would write his memoirs about his time working in the British Motor Industry as this would be a very interesting read. Particularly during that crucial period of change in the early 1980s when the company was working with Honda on projects at various levels and there was a change in political power (and ambition of what to do with the company).

    Then again, I wish Sir J. Graham Day would also do this covering the period of ‘Roverisation’ up until BMW bought into the company. This, together with the major achievements to the product portfolio delivered on such tiny budgets when owned by British Aerospace, hasn’t been documented by such a senior person.

    In other words, we need more recent ‘Back from the Brink’ accounts written by subsequent Chairmans/CEOs to read and learn from.

    • Give him his due, whoever was Chairman of BL/BLMC/Austin-Morris/Austin Rover up to 1985 would have their work cut out sorting out industrial relations and trying to run a profitable, efficient car manufacturer with 90 factories or so was a huge, almost impossible task.

      My hat goes off to Harold Musgrove, who had to be seen as tough and straight talking to push through big changes in working practices. The guy did well to achieve what he did with Metro, Maestro and Montego. By the time he became Chairman, the rot had truly set in by then and BL was totally dependent on Government handouts. I personally think if Stokes had made big, big changes in 1968 they might have been around today. Interesting programme, though…

  7. @ John Shuttleworth:

    Quote: “Plus the whole “no foreign cars on site” policy just suggests the competition weren’t watched/treated as a reality, and that a “British is best” attitude would see them through. Blinkered thinking, in other words. It came back and bit them big time too, when they ended up assembling Honda Ballades.”

    This attitude wasn’t just reserved for British car assembly plants but could also be found with other industries. It was well known that, back in the 1980s the then founder/Chairman of a well-known carpet manufacturer in Devon told the local MP, who was canvassing for support for the next election, to leave the premises as he had turned up in a Citroën – this MP was known for liking Citroëns. The founder/Chairman of the carpet manufacturer himself always drove a Jaguar while all company-owned cars and commercial vehicles were British made. This attitude continued right up until the founder/Chairman passed away in 1999.

  8. I think that Musgrove’s tone towards Goffey is after years of ignorant press coverage and it must get to one after a while. The press is happy to knock continue with myths. Witness Johnson’s lies about the EU for the sake of a good story the Telegraph. Sadly, I would have expected better of Goffey and he should have done a little research.

    As for the Allegro being one of the ugliest cars in the business; that is an exaggeration, in my opinion unfair and an example of received erroneous views. The Allegro was disappointing compared with the 1100/1300 and elements of the initial design were lost in translation during development. However, the Mk1 Allegro was not one of the ugliest cars in the business.

    • I get what you’re saying, but the fact is that the press are listened to by the general public. It’s the general public, let’s not forget, who are also car buyers. When the press get something wrong you can still pull them up on it, but it’s HOW you deal with that situation that matters.

      To most listeners of that show Goffey is a familiar voice. The rest of the panel, much less so. Attacking him could provoke a “poor Chris” reaction, regardless of the right or wrongs of what “poor Chris” was saying.

      The press were a necessary evil that had to be carefully managed, not just dismissed out of hand.

      It paints a picture to me of management that were dismissive of others – be they the press, the workforce, or even customers. Not a good look.

      I’d have put that one comment from Musgrove down to him being a bit grumpy on that particular point, and the editing of the show making him look worse, but he doubled down on the whole “no foreign cars on site” thing as well – amongst other comments.

  9. Harold Musgrove is a very devisive character. After leaving BL he joined the NHS and had a controversial career there.

  10. At random:

    Interesting listen, thank you for bringing this to us. As is too often the case the matter was far too superficially researched and did not in any way refer to the root causes of the company’s failure. I was particularly disappointed in the Goffey contributions which too often veered into sensationalism rather than sticking with facts and researched opinions. He did journalism no favours.

    I can assure you that Harold Musgrove in BL was highly abrasive in everything, but in this broadcast has softened a lot! In his time at BL, almost every sentence uttered was unrelentlessly opinionated and lit by colourful expletives. Staff at all levels feared encounters with this man, hoping he would pass by without giving them what he called “a wire brushing”. It may well be this attitude was born from the ultimate frustration of trying to move a disparate workforce of disillusioned individuals and clapped-out processing plants, to actually do something – anything. He didn’t get much support or loyalty at any level.

    Showing visitors around the Cowley 800/Legend assembly line probably around 1988, I was amazed when asking a line worker a simple question, to have another worker push in and say “he is from the Austin, we don’t talk to him”. A bankrupt Morris had been backed into Austin in 1952, 36 years earlier. My group talked about little else on the journey home, and probably went on to willingly buy Datsuns from Botnar.

    Let’s look at modern history, as the primary cause of the demise of the UK motor industry. We fought the Second World War and we won – at a huge price. A pivotal influence in our ‘victory’ was the flattening industrial production in western Europe and Japan. Post-war, Marshall Aid and expertise was provide to those countries which had to rebuild car factories from scratch, this was done using state-of-the-art premises, tooling, methods, management – much expertise being provided by the UK and USA. The most startling example would be the VW Group. Although the UK benefited from Marshall Aid too, it was far less focussed on industry as our plants and production capabilities had been relatively unscathed. We could still use fly-presses and panel hand rolling machines, and we were forced to. Is it a surprise that we became uncompetitive? The GBP were expected to be patriotic and buy British regardless, but ultimately had the perception that they could buy cheaper and better ‘foreign’.

    Now to the secondary root cause of failure. Austin was profitable in the 1950s, when they could make out-dated and virtually hand-made cars in small factory units and move them around in carts and JIT hadn’t been invented. Morris Cars had been neglected as William Morris had turned his attention to philanthropy and the Iron Lung which he refined and productionised. The Government intervened to prevent the failure of Morris Cars and convinced their rival Austin, to merge. No cash injection was provided and immediately placed the new group into persistent cash flow problems. Funding new cars with monocoque structures needed huge investments, but the cash flow and profitability simply weren’t there.

    You can talk about Ryder, Edwardes, ‘re-organisations’, mergers, conglomeration, ‘benefits of scale’, union influence and Government cash injections/interference until you are blue in the face. The simple fact is Government had no idea about finance, real-world management, no future vision, and reluctantly gave inadequate amounts of cash to BL which merely enabled current bills to be paid with little left over to invest in modern methods (but got voters off their backs until the next election). This naive political meddling in whole-country economics continues to this day – the current English Government being a particularly outstanding example of how to depth-charge anything they interfere in.

    At any point since 1952, had the motor industry been left to its own devices there would have been many more car company/brand failures. I believe that many of them would have been revitalised in entrepreneurial ways and today many more UK-based and owned brands would be a vital part of the car world. But no, we have become a ‘Trans-plant’ nation, with all the fickleness that entails.

    Just my opinion…

  11. I just listened to it, as I was involved in the preliminary stages.

    Harold Musgrove came across as a grumpy, abrasive old man determined to defend his place in the debacle.

    Everybody else got their facts wrong and blamed each other for misdemeanors that they were not responsible for.

    • My conclusions exactly – I believe they should have had a credible historian in the room to keep them honest.

  12. Mike, very well put. An interesting comparison is how the French Government helped Renault and the regional Government helped VW. They invested much more money rather than short term funds. Our current MPs have little business knowledge apart for a few from the City. As for STEM backgrounds very few and it tells sadly.

    My late father worked for Nuffield then BMC and he saw the writing on the wall and left frustrated in 1968. However, I do get annoyed by perpetuating and superimposing 50-year-old myths and opinions onto current companies and businesses. We need more youth to study engineering, science and business and work in UK STEM industries. So much talent gets wasted in ultimately unproductive for society over indulged service industries; insurance, legal and financial services.

    • The problem for STEM subjects is the education system. Currently schools push children towards University and not much else, even if it into subjects which a degree in is as about as good as the paper it is written on!

      Just over a week ago a study showed that a large percentage of youngster didn’t know what an apprenticeship was, which breaks the Baker law brought in to help assist youngsters not only into vocational routes but STEM subjects. I have worked in this sector for nearly 17 years and seeing schools tell kids that engineering is for bad boys and stupid kids that can only use their hands is frustrating.

      • There are plenty of STEM degrees and that is the route to gain a professional qualification in engineering.

    • That was not possible in the UK because we had another part of our UK motor industry, which was owned by the US manufacturers.

      If the Government had started giving BL the support the French gave Renault and Peugeot, i.e. what do you need to be world-class, the US manufacturers would have claimed unfair competition and given the dependence at the time on the US for loans and the cooperation of the IMF, Government could not take this fight.

  13. Just for the record, no manager, senior manager or director had a BMW as their company car. Any BMWs on site were for other reasons.

    I think its only right that non-company products should not be allowed on site – though visitors were often excluded from this policy. Suppliers and companies benefiting should demonstrate their committment or park elsewhere! The few times I was with the Purchasing Director on a supplier visit he always asked about their vehicle fleet – wouldn’t you?

    There is still too much reinforcing of folklore and tales to tell the story they want to tell – one comment above talks about animosity to outsiders on the 800 line. I was there – there was none of it! You mix up banter and reinforce a view. I will give another similar comment from my own time there: “This is Jim, he came down from Speke and he has accepted us!” It’s just banter.

    • I don’t agree, in the fall of 1998 I was taken to dinner in Warwick by a rather nice German lady who had recently been parachuted in by BMW to head up the Treasury function for Rover Group and the other BMW projects in the UK (as she described them) Hams Hall and the F1 engine and she had a very nice BMW 5 Series as her company car.

      • So your one extreme example reinforces this myth then!

        BMWs were never on the management scheme and were never supplied to Directors. BMW saw that the company car culture within Rover had a really negative impact on the brand in the market place – flooding the market and depressing the residuals for real customers. They did not want to be associated with this.

        • So how come she was driving a BMW then?

          Senior BMW management positions in Germany do receive company cars.

          What they don’t have is the management role car scheme that was carried over from BL/Rover days, where managers and family members could run a new car for a nominal fee. It was by the standards of the time, let alone today, ludicrous in its generosity.

          However, it is hard to believe that their own executives parachuted in to try to stop a bad situation from going worse would have lost their own company car perk. But I can understand that BMW would not have allowed the Rover management to start rewarding themselves with M5s etc.

          What I suspect they may have been doing, to bypass the Rover HR and local management getting a say on who was coming to do what in that time of increasing tensions, is employing these executives via one of BMW UK’s other subsidiaries, which is why she may have had a BMW car at her disposal.

          What was clear from our conversation was that she was reporting to the CFO in Munich not in the UK and she was not only one who had been sent in, in the preceding weeks, from Munich.

          • She was not a Rover Group Senior Manger or Director, was she?

            The implication was that the Rover leadership team ditched their Rovers and used BMWs, whilst hypocritically banning similar vehicles from the site. As a Rover manager at the time I was pointing out that this is untrue.

            In 100 years time, people will use blogs like this as history. Half-truths and myths can help to re-write history.

          • I don’t know who owned the BMWs on site, but there were BMWs on site at Longbridge in 1999 when I was there. They weren’t banned – unless, of course, my mind is playing tricks on me.

          • Even Harold would have had to let BMWs on site if he had still been there – they owned the company! They were group products… There was the odd one at Gaydon too, Mr Hasselkus had a Range Rover (and a driver – obviously) – all the BMW secondments had Rovers.

          • Blimey being a BMW executive and being posted to the remote Midlands outpost and forced to ditch your BMW for a Rover must have been like a Roman Centurion posted to Hadrian’s wall or a Wehrmacht Soldier sent to the Russian front!

  14. This business of not having competitor cars on site – how blinkered and parochial can one be? Doing so misses the opportunity for staff to study the opposition and see how in many areas it could actually be better…. Reminds me how, in the late 1990s somebody parked his Japanese 4×4 in a nearly empty Lode Lane car park and I guess he wouldn’t have been too impressed to find that the Discovery end of line drivers had neatly parked brand new Discos all around it to box it in.

    FWIW Chris Goffey is 74 – didn’t even know he was still with us, but I would have thought he had enough spare time these days to do some preliminary fact-checking. There again there’s a documentary airing this week on Murray Walker, who is a spritely 96 – in contrast, Harold Musgrove is a mere 89, so I guess he’s allowed to be a bit grumpy these days…

    • The ‘no competitor cars on site’ was well established here in Germany as well. I do not know about the current situation, but roughly at the same time as debated here, it was the norm for Mercedes and Audi – and possibly all others. Suppliers would hire a matching car, in case they did not have one on the fleet… It all seems quite pointless from the outside view.

        • There was a special parking lot for Chrysler products when my dad worked there in Indianapolis in the 1960s.

          • A workmate bought a his dream car of a big Volvo estate, it was about 1988, he was so enthusiastic about Volvo cars he requested and was accepted for a visit to the plant in Sweden, he came back with the news that all the workers operated a military style parking system for their cars in the works car park, cars were carefully parked in ranks by Volvo model and even in ranks of matching paint colour. The carpark also had extensive washing facilities so there was no excuse for a employee to be seen with a pristine Volvo

    • Yep – hard to imagine that, as the whole company was imploding around him, Harold Musgrove’s priority was signing Donald Trump-type executive orders to stop foreign cars coming on site!

  15. For me this was a typical so called ‘modern’ documentary’ – a mismatch of historical fact mixed with very personal anecdotal stuff totally irrelevant to the main body. My wife listened to it remarked that it was obvious that the people who caused trouble 40 years ago would still cause trouble today!

    In my view though these programmes are pointless. Chris Cowen had to write (a very good) whole book on the subject and, if asked, it would take me at least a couple of hours to explain why BL/MG Rover failed – and I hold myself up as no expert at all! What is the point of half-a-dozen people jabbering on, scratching the surface with stupid remarks for half-an-hour on a radio show. I know, I’m a miserable old so and so!

    • Ironically, I think the bickering – notably between Harold and the union chap – and falsehoods we heard in the programme simply mirrored the problems within – and ultimate downfall of – BL itself.

      It was interesting to hear some thoughts on “the other side of the story” of Michael Edwardes’ stewardship. At the risk of overstating the case, were the early reliability and quality issues of the “M” cars largely down to increased apathy – and perhaps downright hostility towards Edwardes – amongst the workforce?

      Either way, a rather fascinating little programme – a pity they hadn’t made it before Edwardes passed away so he could have at least defended his position.

  16. It was surprising to see how well they got on. I think Musgrove nailed it – if they had stayed working with Honda, they would have flourished.

    They kind of all agreed that Edwardes was damaging (even Harold seemed to think so).

    It would have been interesting to hear more about the products.

  17. I’ve never really rated Goffey tbh – in the old Top Gear days he was fond of saying it was safe to use a mobile phone while driving and he never mastered Woolarding!

  18. The problem with historical disasters is that everybody involved tries to defer blame onto others. All the clichéd arguments were put forward.

    Here, at AROnline, we have put forward alternative answers, namely:

    – the failure to gain early EU entry when British cars were class leaders.
    – the never ending credit squeezes that crucified the home market.
    – the policy of making cars to a price which meant unreliability was guaranteed.

    These were factors that did not affect continental manufacturers.

    • I took your point and made a counterfactual deduction

      Through the acquisition of BORGWARD, which was close to bankruptcy in 1961
      In the mainland has obtained a strong capacity and a mature dealer network
      And it expanded Bovo’s facilities after being refused access to EEC in 1963
      Through the additional profits of the mainland subsidiary, the dilemma and denial of development strategy in 1968 were avoided
      Given that the EEC import ratio of the major EEC countries in the 1960s was less than 20%, I think the acquisition of Germany’s fourth largest automobile manufacturer would have a similar effect

      But the later deduction is still not ideal
      BMCs can survive the chaos of the 1970s
      But it will enter the 1980s as the smallest of the major European car companies
      And lost the ability to survive independently in the 1990s

      I think the root cause is that there are too many car companies competing in the narrow domestic market

  19. You need to remember that Goffey is a journalist. He like most others that commentate on cars and the industry, know precious little about the subjects. It’s almost universal, sadly. His interest isn’t in the truth, it’s in the story.

  20. Interesting that someone thinks ‘Edwardes was damaging’ – a view not held by the author of every book I’ve ever read on the subject.

    The most popular view is that he left BL in a much better place than before. Further, his influence on union controls not only allowed BL to actually make some cars, but has been said by many far more knowledgable than me – influenced British industries across the board. If getting to grips with strikes and improving overall performance was damaging – I’m at a loss! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a blind Edwardes follower – he closed MG instead of capitalising on its strengths but, as we are always saying here, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

    • I think it was Spen King who said that Edwardes was so focused on sorting the unions, which he had to be, that he didn’t actually think about the quality of the product. That was something that Graham Day did, but then he had no industrial strife to worry about.

      I think Edwardes did things back to front with the M Cars, as if they had arrived first and built right, they could have financed the Metro. Now await the backlash about product development…

      • Not quite true on the quality side of things, although the early Maestro and Montego were bad. The Acclaim was as well made as its Honda sibling and there were big improvements in quality at Jaguar and Rover, and even the much maligned Allegro and Princess became far better made after 1979. Also the end of petty, endless disputes both in the factories and at suppliers probably helped.

  21. CG plays up the ‘why you can trust BBC News’ rhetoric so beautifully. The last time BBC Radio 4 did something similar was on the Maestro/Montego launch around 7 years ago. Fair play to the BBC back then, because they brought in my old boss in to pass comment (actually organised by Keith). He was a Top 100 ARG salesman for over a decade, owned an ARG dealership and chaired the ARG dealer council, so he knew a thing or two about the subject. He wouldn’t – and still won’t – have a word said against Musgrove either.

  22. After all these years, the them-and-us attitude is still there as well as an inability to acknowledge how the collapse of BL/ARG is largely down to them.

    Musgrove, in particular, wanted to blame everyone else. I know he’s now an old man, but listen to him in his heyday and he’s not that different. Hard to imagine such a dim-witted, inarticulate man ever being in such a position of responsibility.

  23. When my late father was at BMC there were different canteens for different levels of staff. My father sometimes used to have lunch with Issigonis as he was normally on his own.

  24. Just listened to the repeat of REUNION today and agree with many comments here. Thinking back to Harold Musgrove, I met him at the launch of the SD3 car in 1984. Didn’t know his age but as he’s 89 now, he must have been 53 back then.

    How time flies and how so much has changed – who would have thought that by 2005, MG Rover would have collapsed. Almost the unthinkable but here we are in 2020 with a pandemic and crisis in the car industry again.

  25. A few days ago I noticed that the “Recent Comments” section was taking me to posts which had been made several days earlier; and nothing more recent than that.

  26. I often wonder if Rover would have fared better if the commercial vehicles side of the business wasn’t split from the car business in 1987, as this was still fairly successful and had a range of new products introduced in the eighties. I could imagine a succesful cosmmercial vehicles business would have been beneficial to Roiver Cars and vice versa, as Mercedes, VAG, Renault, Peugeot and Volvo derive a considerable amount of their earnings from commercial vehicles.

  27. @ Glenn Aylett:

    Possibly, although on the assumption it was a consistently profitable operation, it would have effectively been more of a subsidising operation to make the overall group’s financial performance look more agreeable. It wouldn’t have helped address the ongoing issues within the Cars division itself, or Land Rover, such as having sufficient funds to develop all-new products on their own which had a more competitive production cycle.

    The real issue was that despite some very difficult decisions being taken in the late 1970s resulting in a less fragmented operation, the new Conservative administration wanted to get shot of their vehicle-making interests. Carving it up was seen as the best way to get the best return and also make it more attractive for potential buyers.

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