On this day in auto history - January 17th

Sun 17th Jan 2021

It was on this day in 1968 that British Motor Holdings and Leyland Motors announced that they would merge to form the British Leyland group.

In what was the biggest merger in Britain’s industrial history, the new conglomerate consisted of profitable marques such as Jaguar, Rover and Land Rover - not to mention the best-selling Mini - and was encouraged by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in an attempt to effectively create a ‘British General Motors’.

The new company was arranged into seven divisions under its new chairman, Sir Donald Stokes, but, for all the initial bravado, the dream was to quickly turn sour amid a climate of political in-fighting, industrial unrest and shoddy workmanship.

In April 1975, little more than seven years after it was formed, the group collapsed after running up debts of £200 million,  forcing the Labour government to step in and nationalise the company as Britain became a net importer of cars for the first time.

BL soldiered on but was gradually broken up during the 1980’s and renamed the Rover Group in 1986 before later becoming a subsidiary of British Aerospace and subsequently BMW.