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BL/Rover What Went Wrong?


sierraman
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What are people’s thoughts on what exactly bollocksed BL and Rover up? 

Its not a straightforward singular event, moreover a sequence of bad decisions. What’s your thoughts on why it went so badly wrong?

My thoughts on it are a key point was the plethora of brands/cars competing against each other and simple crazy tight-fisted ideas like insisting the Allegro was tall enough to fit the E series and the Maxi HAD to use the 1800 doors. 

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@sierraman I agree.  There was also far too much brand autonomy, which resulted in (for example) Rover using a 3.5 litre V8 salvaged from Buick, and Triumph designing their own 3.0 litre V8, when either of them could, realistically, have had easy access to the 3.4 Jaguar XK straight-six (and both already had smaller sixes anyway).  But no, none of them wanted to share with the rest of the megacorp.

Allegro and Princess could both have been jaw-droppingly sleek, like beyond-Citroen levels of sleekness, but had to accommodate the old tall running gear.  The Maxi doors thing just should never have happened, at all.   So-called star designers were given their head for too long.

Also, it's one thing to have a range of brands at your disposal, each with their own identity within a heirarchy... but you need to use them!  Why wasn't there a high-speed MG Allegro (a name that literally means Fast when you translate it from Italian, ffs!) or a luxury Wolseley Marina?  Why were the upmarket Minis killed off when they could have subsidised the loss-making bread-and-butter versions?  VAG have shown it can still be done, with SEAT, Skoda, VW and Audi, all more or less the same car!

From the early 50s, BMC/BL was a catalogue of mismanagement.  Accountant control and part-sharing over at Ford gave us the Cortina: 20 solid years of success.  At the same time, the same philosophy, differently applied at Cowley and Longbridge, built disaster.  And while Ford gave us a new (-looking) model every 4-6 years, BMC/BL made old designs last for year upon year with no more than detail changes.

The mishandling of the Honda collaboration was another wasted opportunity, closely followed by the blatant criminal profiteering of the BMW period.

In short, the whole 40 or so years could have been handled so much better, but then hindsight is wonderful, isn't it?

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17 minutes ago, Fumbler said:

Spending massive amounts on prototypes which never made it to production.

Yeah this. Instead of pensioning Issigonis off after the Mini they kept indulging him with hopeless projects like the 9X. 

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One perhaps minor at first detail; Factionalism and a them and us mentality. Oh we can’t use that engine from those people we need design and engineer and produce a new one, for instance.

Somehow they had the seeds of a semi- VAG platform sharing thing at their feet but made a mess of it.

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I'd say misguided decisions helped kill them, such as not giving the Princess a hatchback, and wasting money on things such as the voice synthesiser on the Maestro, not to mention various other projects that never reached fruition.

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22 hours ago, HMC said:

Somehow they had the seeds of a semi- VAG platform sharing thing at their feet but made a mess of it.

BMC/BL had platform-sharing down pat long before VAG could even consider it.  They just got it catastrophically wrong, whereas VAG seem to have made it work.

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To much in fighting/duplication selling several different cars to the same customer rather than fighting other manufacturers.

Who all made a small, medium, large car & possibly a sports coupe.

They should have made mini, dolomite,princess,rover sd1 estate was a huge missed opportunity,jaguar (saloons & estates of all).

Then midget,TR7 Inc lynx hatchback & Jag.

Land rover & Range rover.

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Tony Benn,

 

Forced a profitable, well run Leyland Group to buy the ailing shitshow that was BMC, ensuring that they all went down the pan.

The policy of full employment made sure that the company was overmanned and under invested which meant that they were always loosing ground against well run competition  that didn't have the UK government sticking it's nose in.

Project management was abysmal, nothing wrong with using the E series in the Allegro as long as it's clearly stated at the start of the project, unfortunately we know how that ended.

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22 minutes ago, eddyramrod said:

I agree.  There was also far too much brand autonomy, which resulted in (for example) Rover using a 3.5 litre V8 salvaged from Buick, and Triumph designing their own 3.0 litre V8, when either of them could, realistically, have had easy access to the 3.4 Jaguar XK straight-six (and both already had smaller sixes anyway). 

And let's not forget Daimler's rather lovely hemi V8.

23 minutes ago, eddyramrod said:

Accountant control and part-sharing over at Ford gave us the Cortina: 20 solid years of success.

Ford weren't exactly the masters of rationalisation though.  Let us not forget that for a period in the early 1980s they had three different inline 4-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engines in production at the same time.

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The individual brands and dealer network that seemed to compete for the same customer base.  Triumph and Rover were the upper crust badges, I imagine Wolseley about in the middle, with Morris and Austin branded cars were workaday vehicles that the average punter drove.  Mini sort of existed as its own brand after the Morris Mini/Austin 7 bit at the beginning.  The problem was, they all seemed to have duplicate ranges, with not enough to set each one apart. 

The range should have been simplified and vehicles refreshed every few years, rather than keep on dragging ancient designs on (the Minor is a classic example, 1948-1971 with some changes) but that stubbornness and lack of forward planning meant that from 1963, very little changed with the Moggie.

That being said, the motoring press didn't help one bit.  They had to be objective but could have been kinder.  Retrospectively a lot of people (and Old Top Gear as well as Top Gear I'm pointing at you) have shat on BL, when really they churned out cars that got into the all important fleet market and provided families/small businesses with transport.  Any vehicle, which might not have been technically advanced, or fabulously designed or built was better than walking in the rain (even if it let the rain in like my Dad's Montego).

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22 hours ago, wuvvum said:

And let's not forget Daimler's rather lovely hemi V8

What, like I just did (to my lasting shame)?

Yes, that came in 2.5 and 4.5 sizes, and therefore could very easily have been used instead of the other two and the XK!

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I read somewhere that they fitted the larger one to a mkX and it circulated around the Mira banking at a very high speed, and trounced the 4.2 xk in a comparison

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1 minute ago, HMC said:

I read somewhere that they fitted the larger one to a mkX and it circulated around the Mira banking at a very high speed, and trounced the 4.2 xk in a comparison

Yep.  I think they even tried one in a Mk2 - IIRC it shat over the 3.8 Jag version so comprehensively that Jaguar deliberately sabotaged the project.

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They kept on with what they thought people wanted like the MGB GT, bearing in mind it lasted til 80/81 when the Golf GTI had been out 5 years. In a panic they brought out the MG Maestro, hashed together the R series then withdrew it about 20 minutes later. Constantly 5 years behind the pace. 

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Leonard Lord (aka Lord Lambury) didn't help the matter, he was running BMC at the time BL came along and and carked it just as the takeoever was being negotiated.  He also got Issigonis back and gave him the free reign to a) design the Mini and b) spunk insane amounts of money up the wall, along the floor and down the corridor.

Wish he'd been given the title of Lord Lord, that woudl have been entertaining at least.

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TBF to Rover, they agreed the Buick V8 deal well before any BL shenanigans. I also doubt the XK would have fitted in a P6 easily. It was also more or less free (IIRC Rover actually got the rights from Mercury Marine, I think GM used it for just 3 years and then just wrote off the investment - it would have been peanuts to them).

If BMC had been allowed to fail, it could have restarted eventually just with the Mini/1100 and MG without all the dross, maybe eventually  in a merger with someone else relatively small like Volvo.

But, as said above, the profitable Leyland group was forced into a merger, and all the truck/Rover&Triumph/Land Rover profits were pissed down the drain trying to keep the volume cars division afloat (and Longbridge/Cowley occupied).

If Leyland had continued alone they probably would have eventually concentrated on premium brands (I imagine Rover for saloon cars and Triumph for sports cars), the trucks (which were still very big in the Commonwealth markets in the 1960s) and Land Rover. 

BMC was a management nightmare, Austin and Morris never really merged even 15 years after its founding, and Issigonis was given far too much reign. He was a good concept engineer, but knew fuck all about building cars profitably. He didn’t really even know that much about body engineering, he ignored all the advice from Pressed Steel people about the 1100, hence the rear subframes rusted out after four years, and all the other rust traps. Maybe listening to people who knew about such things might have helped!

He wasn’t nicknamed ‘Arragonis’ for nothing, and almost the first thing Stokes did was shunt him aside to an ‘advanced projects’ job, where he could do as little harm as possible.

The BMC problems accelerated with the Mini not being profitable, and the Issigonis designed 1800 completely missing out on the new aspirational markets of the 1960s. It was too big to be a Cortina competitor, and too cheap looking to tempt Rover/Triumph 2000 buyers. It was also, being FWD, too unreliable for fleet buyers/old school folk who bought the Farina A60s, which then had to be kept going for absolutely ages to satisfy the dealers. Same with the A40, A35 van and all the other RWD fossils.

BMC’s attempt at light lorries was also totally woeful, but they had just built a new plant at Bathgate, so couldn’t give up, even after the Ford D series and Bedford TK collectively nicked their lunch.

TL:DR: badly handicapped way before Stokes got involved. Govt decisions (‘stop go’ on car financing/interest rates to adjust the economy, and even worse, making companies build factories in areas that knew fuck all about building cars) didn’t exactly help, although Ford showed it could be managed. 

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While Issigonis was jizzing up and down the corridors of Longbridge they designed the 1800, then discovered it was too wide to go over the steel bridge. Instead of resolving this like most people would by widening it, they drove trailer loads of bare steel bodies down the road. 

The City Rover, I knew blokes that worked at Eric Steads in Ecclesfield when it came out, the embarrassment was unbelievable, it was to anyone with eyes in their head a third world product with some Rover badges on. Nobody thought it was possible but it was worse than the Metro it replaced. An outfit near where I used to live bought a lot of the remaining ones after Rover went bust, even at £3000 they were struggling to convince people. 

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