The British Motor Corporation. BMC. Loved and hated at the same time by British car fans around the world. Loved for the cars produced during the company’s existence – the MGB, the Austin Healey 3000, the ‘Spridget’, and many more. Loved, or at least liked, because they were better than British Leyland that came after them. Hated for the corporate think, homogenization of the cars, and start of the slide that soon would swallow Jaguar as well.
Our Video of the Week this time is “British Motor Corporation Story”, a look back at the company that for many epitomizes the British car industry of the 1960s.
BMC was the largest British car company of its day, with (in 1952) 39 percent of British output, producing a wide range of cars under brand names including Austin, Morris, MG, Austin-Healey and Wolseley as well as commercial vehicles and agricultural tractors. The first chairman was Lord Nuffield (William Morris) but he was replaced in August 1952 by Austin’s Leonard Lord who continued in that role until his 65th birthday in 1961 but handing over, in theory at least, the managing director responsibilities to his deputy George Harriman in 1956.
British Motor Corporation’s headquarters were at the Austin plant at Longbridge, near Birmingham and Austin was the dominant partner in the group mainly because of the chairman. The use of Morris engine designs was dropped within 3 years and all new car designs were coded ADO from “Amalgamated Drawing Office”.
The Longbridge plant was up to date, having been thoroughly modernised in 1951, and compared very favourably with Nuffield’s 16 different and often old fashioned factories scattered over the English Midlands. Austin’s management systems however, especially cost control and marketing, were not as good as Nuffield’s and as the market changed from a shortage of cars to competition this was to tell.
The biggest-selling car, the Mini, was famously analysed by Ford Motor Company who concluded that BMC must be losing £30 on every one sold. The result was that although volumes held up well throughout the BMC era, market share fell as did profitability and hence investment in new models, triggering the 1966 merger with Jaguar Cars to form British Motor Holdings (BMH), and three years later leading to the government sponsored merger of BMH with Leyland Motor Corporation.