On this day in auto history - October 8th

Fri 8th Oct 2021

It was on this day in 1980 that British Leyland launched the famous Austin Metro, the popular supermini which briefly lifted the fortunes of the ailing state-owned car manufacturer.

Accompanied by a jingoistic advertising slogan of ‘A British car to beat the world’, the Metro was as a slightly bigger, flashier alternative to the mini and proved an instant sales success due to its blend of space and affordability.

The fact that the nation’s new sweetheart, Lady Diana Spencer, was known to drive a red Austin Metro only served to amplify sales and it wasn’t long before the three-door hatchback became Britain’s most popular small car, even outselling the Ford Fiesta for a time.

Metro sales peaked in 1983 - the same year it was named by What Car? as its Car of The Year - but, by the mid-1980’s it was clear the vehicle’s outdated engine and gearbox couldn’t match the durability of its contemporaries and sales began to slide markedly amid record high numbers of warranty claims.

After the Austin marque was shelved in 1987, the Metro went on to wear the names MG Metro and Rover Metro as new generations were introduced but sales continued to slide and the vehicle was known as the Rover 100 when production was eventually ended in 1998.

In all its incarnations, the Metro sold around 1.5 million units in the UK, establishing it the top 10 of the nation’s best-selling cars ever.