British Motor Holdings - History


The Wilson Labour Government (1964–1970) came to power at a time when British manufacturing industry was in decline and decided that the remedy was to promote more mergers, particularly in the motor industry. Chrysler was already buying into the Rootes Group, Leyland Motors had acquired Standard Triumph and Rover and had become a major automotive force. The British Motor Corporation (BMC) was suffering a dramatic drop in its share of the home market. In 1965 it purchased Pressed Steel Company (a car body manufacturer), and in the third quarter of 1966 purchased Jaguar Cars. To recognize the changed nature of their business the company name was changed to British Motor Holdings on 14 December 1966.

From the perspective of Jaguar, the sale came about because Sir William Lyons, the managing director and founder of Jaguar Cars Ltd, was nearing retirement, and did not have a viable succession plan for his company. His only son John Lyons had been killed in a car accident in 1955, and his other board members were of a similar age to himself. Another factor was that bodyshells for Jaguar production were fabricated by Pressed Steel, a supplier critical to Jaguar Cars and now controlled by BMC. From the perspective of the BMC, a merger with JaguarCars was attractive because it had had success in the US market, and was thereby hugely profitable at a time when BMC lacked the funds to invest sufficiently in modern production facilities or new models.

At the annual statement to shareholders for 1967, BMH chairman Sir George Harriman reported that the company had manufactured 313,790 vehicles, including 72,049 manufactured overseas.

On 17 January 1968, BMH's short life came to an end. As it still struggled to make a profit, and reporting a £3.4 million loss for 1966/7, it merged with the smaller yet prosperous Leyland Motor Corporation to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) on a one-for-one share exchange, valuing BMH at £201 million.

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