The British Motor Corporation or BMC was once one of the world’s largest vehicle producers. It was formed in 1952 as a result of a merger between Austin and Morris. BMC would become one of the world’s largest car manufacturers, responsible at its peak for around 39% of British car exports.
The British car industry did not keep up with the times and was very much in decline by the time it was nationalised by the government in 1975 and re-named British Leyland. This would later become the Austin Rover Group. The group was later sold to British Aerospace in 1998 but just 3 years later they sold it to BMW. The truth was that it had been costing British Aerospace too much money to keep it going. Some of the cars had been developed under partnership with Honda so it was a great surprise to many when BMW purchased the company.
BMW would invest heavily in the group for the next 6 years before they too came to the conclusion that they were spending too much money to keep it afloat. Enter the Pheonix Consortium who bought the business for just £10, acquired a large loan and thousands of unsold cars. With little investment in R&D and an agreement to build cars in India, it could not establish its reputation as a quality car builder and suffered against fierce competition from other manufacturers.
The five Phoenix directors made sure that they lined their pockets to the tune of more than £16 million in salaries while the MG Rover group itself continued to lose money. The last vehicles rolled off the production line in 2005 and the company went into administration. It would finally be sold to a Chinese consortium called SAIC who moved production to China albeit with the exception of MG sports cars and a small operation still at Longbridge employing a few hundred people.
The huge sprawling factory at Longbridge is now a shadow of its former past. Most of it has been demolished and has made way for new developments. This short story just gives you an insight into its history and everything could have ended there it were not for two interesting developments. British Leyland would continue in India as it does today and it still has strong connections to the UK. Website: http://www.ashokleyland.com/
You could be forgiven for thinking that BMC faded into history and died in all but name but you would be wrong. Licenses for some BMC products were passed on to a small Turkish company that kept the original name and logo and started to produce vehicles. Scroll forward to present day and you may be surprised to know that BMC is a large producer of light vehicles, trucks and buses and even exports some of its products to the UK. http://www.bmc.com.tr/hakkimizda/?lang=en
Visitors to Turkey might have noticed a very prominent Leyland Sherpa lookalike in villages and towns around the country. Mostly in a flat bed style rather than a van these vehicles are a legend in Turkey. They have been a huge success story over here and parts for these vehicles are readily available at a fraction of the cost of more modern vehicles. The flatbed pickups were suitably named Levend ( notice the similarity with Leyland ) and they were produced in their old shape right up until 1999 and then in the new format until 2009! Below is one of the Sherpa UK versions.
Ask any Turkish villager about the Levend. They are known for their durability, their strength and character and they are loved for their general ruggedness and capabilities as a good farming vehicle or city delivery truck. No one has a bad word to say about them and they are still revered and sought after. There is a very healthy second hand market for them in Turkey.
So, BMC lives on. It may no longer be British but just like Ashock Leyland both companies retain their pedigree and on reflection it is a great shame that the Leyland Sherpa was often ridiculed and lost ground to the Ford Transit when in reality, as proven in Turkey, it turned out to be something special with a long production span and a proud reputation.