Austin Maestro: the car which would result in the rebirth of the brand

Austin Maestro

Before going on to detail the story of the Austin Master you have to understand that the decade of the 80’s were a few years ago a “special” for the vast majority of brands generalist european: new market arrangements between the different european countries, not necessarily community-based, allowed the major brands to expand their markets by offering their models in countries that previously were not present. That required a strong investment that sometimes were counter-productive or poorly studied, and ended up plunging into the ruin of more than one manufacturer.

With this I want to say that there were many brands that, as happens today, the Lancia, is kept stable at the level of accounting with the sales generated in their respective countries of origin but, when they came out of their feuds with the traditional, they became genuine failures commercial and economic. Either by the lack of evolution in relation to the competition, for the prejudices of the europeans about the cars on account of their origin, or by the combination of both appearance, the Austin Maestro was one of those cars that, without being a bad product, suffered a failure in business because of their English origin, and the lack of foresight and reaction of the manufacturer.

The difficult past of the Austin Teacher

I go back to the beginning of the 50 when the british Austin Motor Company and Morris Motor Company were merged under the name of British Motor Corporation (BMC). It was also known to this group as Austin-Morris, although never used that denomination or at the enterprise level or at the commercial level. The contract of merger shall specify the maintenance of both marks, but it quickly became clear the supremacy of the Austin Motor Company about Morris Motor Company. In fact, despite the supposed independence mall, both brands began to sell vehicles “suspiciously” similar. In any case, both manufacturers had a notable reception in the English market, and their products were at a technical level to a level similar to that of the other european competitors.

Morris Mini de primera generación

In 1957, began selling model A55 Farina, which was offered with slight modifications under the brands Austin, MG, Morris, Riley and Siam di Tella, and that was heavily criticized for its excessive resemblance with the luxurious Lancia Flaminia. Luckily for the BMC and for the whole world, in 1959, launched on the market in the authentic and genuine Mini, sold as the Austin or Morris. This utility has filled the coffers of BMC thanks to its great reception in England and the contracts of manufacture under license that enabled this utility so great is manufacturer in countries as disparate as Spain, Italy, Chile or Australia.

is Born in the small car

at this point I should clarify three aspects that contributed to the commercial success of both the Mini as its competitor, the Fiat Nuova 500 and that’s without belittling at all to these two great urban areas, help to understand a little better its rapid diffusion:

  • Suez crisis, 1956, and the shortage of oil made the whole Europe interesase for vehicles economic.
  • The emergence of small economic cars made a new and relatively well-to-do middle class european could allow access to the purchase of a car and even of a second vehicle in your family unit.
  • massive incorporation of women to the road and the approach that many brands given to this phenomenon with advertisements that today would be reprobadamente sexist and even prohibited.

Mergers and policy

In 1965 the group acquires the company Pressed Steel Company, which manufactured the coachwork for both the BMC and to Jaguar Cars Limited, and that today is owned by BMW and is in charge of the manufacturing of the bodywork of the Mini.

With the labour party in power, and in response to the purchase of Rootes Group by Chrysler Europe, the british government “invited” (with many quotes) manufacturers English-merged. So it was back in 1966 BMC purchased the also british Jaguar Cars Limited and its two brands, Jaguar and Daimler, and returns to change of name, going to call British Motor Holdings Limited (EQUIPMENT).

Jaguar 420

so Much merger created a few expenses that the sales of the Mini could not be assumed, and in 1968 the entire group is declared in bankruptcy although got once more that the English government “would allow” merger with another manufacturer English, this time with Leyland Motor Corporation Limited (LMC), a small but profitable manufacturer owner of the trade marks Land Rover, Leyland, Rover and Triumph. The fusion of these two groups gave rise to the British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC).

despite the fact that the brands Jaguar, Daimler and the that were previously under the umbrella of CML were marks relatively profitable, the accounts were still to leave, there was no big news at the commercial level, and its umpteenth bankruptcy led to the nationalization of the group in 1975 and a new change of name: British Leyland Limited.

With this nationalization was revealed the commercial importance that was given to the products of the old LMC to the retain the name of Leyland in its corporate name. In addition, you can also say that, with this operation, the british government became the owner of the greater part of the manufacturers English automobile manufactured in series (that is, not craft), taking into account that in 1973 had nationalized also Rolls-Royce and Bentley to rescue them from his umpteenth bankruptcy.

I Just recap the years 50, 60 and 70 of the automotive industry, and british I have spoken only of bankruptcies, bankruptcies, and mergers with interests were more political than business. This is a pity because the stubbornness of political forced to maintain the manufacture of products little (or nothing) that cost-effective limited the ability of trademarks to the development or improvement of products that had a good host business, or the better adaptation of its products against the competition of Continental Europe.

Ultimatum to British Leyland Limited

70 began with the success of the Mini and the BMC ADO16 (Austin 1100 / 1300), with the popularity of the Jaguar XJ and with the drubbing economic which led to the failure of the Austin 3-Litre, a posh version and face of the Austin 1800. So the british government gave an ultimatum to the business group: survive or die.

Austin 1100

the Result of the need to launch profitable products was the development of the Rover SD1, the last Rover to be authentically English, and the Austin Metro. These two cars are not replaced directly to any vehicle in the special, but to entire families of them. Thus, while the Austin Metro was commercially in the lower part of the offer as a course substitute Mini and british representative on the market of urban vehicles, the Rover SD1 replaced the stroke of a pen all the sedans large manufacturer English and was erected as the maximum representative of the luxury and the sporty feel within the group, only behind Jaguar and Daimler.

with Respect to the Rover SD1 I have to say that it was a car that had a good host commercial, despite having been harshly criticised for his bodywork of five doors and for not having the classic front grill. In fact, it was known by the Rover unless Rover history, it is clear that this criticism came before the launch of the Rover 200, 400, and 800…

Arrives the Austin Maestro

The good market uptake of the Austin Metro and Rover SD1 on English soil and the level of sales in european soil invited the manufacturer English to develop a compact vehicle, which filled the gap commercial that was among them. He was born the Austin Maestro, the vehicle that replaced blow to the old Austin Allegro, Austin Maxi and MG 1300.

Released in 1983 and manufactured in the plant that Morris had in Cowley (Oxfordshire), the Austin Maestro was presented as a compact a little more than four meters with an interior space, which even exceeded to that of many sedans stockings and equipment, in the higher versions could be catalogued as a luxury, both for the richness of its endowment as by the quality of the materials used in its interior.

The offer initial mechanical articulated from two blocks tetracilíndricos already known. The Base version, and the L used to ride the motor 1,275 cubic centimeters and 68 horses already known to the Austin Mini. With this block, but with “only 64 horses, we were offered the version equipped HLE with interior much more care with respect to the previous versions.

The second block available, 1.598 cubic inches and 81 horsepower, it was already known from previous models of Austin and was reserved for the finish HLS, very similar in outfit to the HLE. On this block, but with the power increased up to the 103 horse was launched to the market MG Master, which was basically the same car that the Austin Maestro with a aesthetically elegantly sporty, while the standard equipment was similar to that of HLE and HLS.

As a curiosity of the development of the Austin Maestro, which reflects the ambition of the manufacturer you might want to know that the first prototypes began rolling with the suspension Hydrogas of the Austin Metro, but in the latter stages is mounted to the prototypes, the suspension of the Volkswagen Golf. I said the same and not similar, because the manufacturer English bought a round of Volkswagen Golf and I removed the suspension to install in the prototypes of the Master, much heavier and larger than the Golf and, above all, with a battle far superior to the German model.

Begin sales

The Austin Maestro began to be manufactured in November 1982, although it did not begin commercialization until one march 1983. This forecast is due to the manufacturer expecting a very good hosting business and I wanted to be prepared to meet the demand.

Austin Maestro

When the Austin Maestro passed through the hands of the press received very good reviews by incorporating for the first time in its category of elements as a laminated windshield, the bumper plastics painted, safety belts adjustable in height, or the control management system. Another detail much applauded, was the wide range of maintenance: the Austin Teacher had to review every 12,000 miles (about 19,000 kilometers), which reduced the maintenance cost to almost half in relation to its competition. In addition, the MG models included voice synthesizer and digital instrumentation although with the odometer in analog.

Almost all the press revealed that the Austin Maestro was a car spacious, comfortable and very easy to drive, and it was considered as a vehicle is absolutely ready to compete in the european market.

commercial performance

The following year it was launched the Austin Montego as a version of four-door derivative of the Master but with a different look. This sedan replaced suddenly all the sedans average of the group, and also served to alleviate the decline in sales that he was suffering from the Rover SD1, at the end of its commercial life, and the shy welcome to the Triumph Acclaim, a clone of the Honda Balade, had been in the european market.

Austin Montego

Both of the models, Maestro and Montego, they experienced an authentic boom of sales in the first years of marketing, in addition to benefit from ongoing improvements in the range, both the mechanical equipment.

Become the bad news

In the mid-80’s the entire offer of the group and of its brands had focused almost exclusively on the Metro, Maestro, Montego and sales more passionate than cost-effective the Mini. Even Jaguar, historically profitable, it maintained in force the third generation of the XJ it was more of a new twist of the first generation of 1968, who had also not been overly innovative in its launch. Only the Rover SD3 (Rover 200), launched to replace the Triumph Acclaim, it was an unobtrusive host in continental Europe, hindered in part the acceptance of the Maestro and Montego when considering the market Rover as a product much more advanced.

Back again problems and the group is sold to the business network of British Aerospace, which gets rid of the marks Jaguar and Daimler, and sold 20 percent of its shares to japan’s Honda, with the that the English group had already had conversations. In addition, it produces a new change of name. From 1986, the group’s car was renamed the Rover Group.

Rover 827 Vitesse

To these problems is joining the little initial commercial success of the Rover 800 launched in 1986 on the basis of the Honda Legend, and a new setback commercial on their spear tips: the Austin Teacher begin to accuse a poor quality of construction, and a troubling lack of reliability, especially in the block of 1.598 cc, that accused excessive wear of the crankshaft.

At this time, the manufacturer repaired all the models already manufactured with this engine and launched launched a “new” block with the same displacement with numerous improvements, among which highlighted a new electronic ignition. Also improved the standard equipment across the range and eliminated the digital dashboard, the source also of many electronic problems.

Already in the hands of this new group began to develop a variant with a diesel engine for its low power and slowly was relegated to the industrial version and was launched the MG Maestro Turbo, presented in 1989, and able to exceed 200 miles per hour.

Also in 1989 was released the Rover R8 (Rover 200/400), clone English of the Honda Concerto. These cars if they had a very good market uptake and the fact of being really a Honda masked made the market perceived as a product of much better quality than the Metro and Maestro, to the that ended up completely shifting.

Rover R8 (200/400)

In the year 1990, sales of the Master fell sharply and the manufacturer decided to limit their offer to the models, more basic and to the sport version, signed by MG, given that the Rover R8 were lacking (still) a sport variant. As expected, the MG Maestro ceased its production as soon as they presented the Rover 216 GTI and Rover 416 GTI. They tried to boost sales with the introduction in 1992 of the mechanical diesel signed by Perkins with a power of 80 horses, but neither received a good review or had a relevant sales.

In 1995 Rover Group passed into the hands of BMW and the first thing it does is to transfer the production of the Austin Teacher to Varna (Bulgaria), where it produced a total of 2,000 units until in April 1996 it ceased all of its production and commercialization in european lands.

it Was at this moment when BMW sold the rights of manufacture and even some tooling to china 中国第一汽车, better known by First Automobile Works (FAW), which she made for the market it exclusively in the local market. From the time china highlights the model FAW CA6410 Lubao, which was the variant most luxurious and recognized by equipping the more sharp front of the Austin Montego.

The English patient

despite the release of vehicles interesting in terms of quality and positioning in the market, such as the MG F or Rover 75, the accounts remained out of balance and the English group became known among the professionals of the sector as the English patient. In the year 2000 BMW vendío Land Rover to the american Ford, but it was not until the year 2005 when the German did a strange movement business that surprised the world and finished with the brands Austin and Rover way definiva and canceled temporarily the development of MG.

Rover 75

The MG brand was sold to the china-Naijing Automobile Corporation, the manufacturing rights to the Rover 25 and Rover 45 were purchased by the also chinese Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), but the brand Rover, understood as the right of exploitation, is the property of india Tata Motors Limited. In fact, the old Rover 75 that are now made by SAIC are sold under the name Roewe 750. And What About Mini? Because it was BMW.

With this panorama, in which are not knew who was the owner of the trademarks and the who of the rights, the company FAW decided to terminate the production of the English model, thus giving an end to the history of the Austin Maestro and the brands Austin and Rover.

what was it that happened to the Austin Maestro?

The Austin Maestro was not a bad product, far from it. Despite the problems of adjustment and reliability of the first units, you can’t say with objectivity that it was a vehicle worse than your competition continental. However, the history of the manufacturer makes it clear that it came from a business mentality of survival when the state “put a hand” every time he needed only for the pride of keeping alive the brands that are considered the engine of the automotive industry English.

on the other hand, once in the 70 and 80 are opened to most of the european markets, they did so with an interesting range of products but that, once thrown, failed to evolve at the same speed as the rest of european vehicles. When in the end they succeeded to launch a product able to compete and evolve at the same speed that marks the French or German, as was the Austin Maestro, it is they themselves who are entangled in the market with the launch of products that are canibalizan between them, as it happened with the Rover SD3.

Rover SD3 (200)

finally there are two details that marked the Austin Maestro since its launch. On the one hand the reluctance of the european market towards the vehicles Englishis, that always stood out for the using high-quality materials in its interiors though mediocremente assemblies, and on the other hand the fact that, in most of the european markets, the Austin Master only trading with the engines more powerful and expensive, what made him have a starting price much higher than the competition, to the above, yes, equipment and their respective customer service departments.

the history of The Austin Maestro is not the story of a bad car, but the history of a manufacturer devoid of forethought that it took to realize how important it is to keep up with the competition. Logically, when you are wanted to give account, it was already late.

is There a Austin Maestro today?

The Austin Maestro ceded its place in the market to the Rover R8, which was replaced by the Rover RR-H, marketed as Rover 45 when it came to the decline of the brand. Officially it is known that the manufacturer, English was working on the replacement of the latter model when BMW divested itself of the brand Rover. Well, there are those who unofficially argues that the project of replacing the Rover HH-R was the one that gave rise to the BMW E87 and I will not be I the you to confirm it, but neither to deny it.

BMW E87 (Serie 1)