Niche Products in the British Motor Industry: A History of MG and Triumph Sports Cars, 1945-81

  • Timothy R. Whisler
  • Published 2003


Since the last quarter of the nineteenth century the British economy in general and the manufacturing sector in particular has suffered competitive decline relative to other industrialized nations, particularly during the post World War Two era. The search for the causes of this decline has produced a large body of research into the country's cultural values, socio-economic institutions and neo-classical economic theory. The performance of the British motor industry fits that of the wider economy. The sector emerged from World War Two with a competitive advantage in regard to its European rivals. However, by 1981 the indigenous ector, represented by British Leyland (BL), had faced bankruptcy, entered into state ownership and undergone several unsuccessful revival efforts. In terms of annual output, export sales and profitability, the industry's decline was absolute. Numerous tudies blame poor management, hostile industrial relations, insufficient investment in plant and machinery, inefficient production methods and unattractive model ranges. Most have concentrated upon and singled out production factors per se. This thesis tests the validity of these theories and explores the connection, if any, between the decline of the British economy and motor industry. It also investigates the success (in terms of unit profitability, export sales and product image) of Austin-Healey, MG and Triumph sports cars compared to the performance of most British mass market models through a holistic approach, where management, corporate strategy and structure, government-enterprise relations, product design and development, industrial relations, distribution structures, consumer demand and product attributes, including quality, are given equal weight with production methods and scale of output. The study then examines the reasons for the sudden discontinuation of sports car production in 1981. A study of sports cars allows comparisons among models within a corporation as well as between competing companies. MG was founded in 1923 as part of the Nuffield Organisation. William Morris' (Lord Nuffield) firm merged with Austin to create British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1952.

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@inproceedings{Whisler2003NichePI, title={Niche Products in the British Motor Industry: A History of MG and Triumph Sports Cars, 1945-81}, author={Timothy R. Whisler}, year={2003} }