Letter: The car business: company history, Japanese honour, German priorities, British nostalgia

Sir: Your columns, like others, tend to give undue credit to Honda for the dramatic turnaround in fortunes of the Rover Group. While acknowledging its contribution, as a former major supplier to the industry watching history unfold, I suggest that others played a more significant part.

The appointment of Michael Edwardes in the late 1970s was the major turning point in British Leyland's fortunes. Aided by the active support of national trade union leaders, he grasped the industrial relations nettle with success. New models were introduced, small, age-old models eliminated and pride restored to a unified group. He too deserves all credit for the link created with Honda.

His successor, Graham Day, inherited an established base and identified a quality niche in the market which matched the group's size, resources and capabilities. By attacking it under the long respected Rover banner, he it was who completed a 12-year turnaround. To him must go the final accolade.

And what of the future? BMW is an honourable name. But past experience suggests that the overlap of medium to large cars in the new group's combined range will lead to product rationalisation and the demise of Rover engineered designs. Historically, German assembly plants strongly favour German component suppliers. At a relatively early stage therefore, British suppliers will probably suffer and British jobs will be lost.

But this may be an over-pessimistic view. Like the Japanese, BMW manufacture may be attracted here, benefiting from the skill and know-how of the most sophisticated under-developed country in the world - Britain.

Yours faithfully,

BERNARD HILTON

Sheffield

1 February

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