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About AustinAustin Motor Company started production in 1905. Herbert Austin, former manager of Woseley, had shown his plans for the first Austin car at the Olympia Motor Show in London. The next year, the 25hp Endcliffe Phaeton rolled out of the factory. After the first five years of business, the company produced approximately 200 of these vehicles.
Austin went public in 1914, using the increase in capital to produce 1,000 cars with 2,000 employees. Government contracts from the onset of WWI for munitions and aircraft brought enormous growth. By 1918, Austin employed over 20,000 people and even had its own flying ground. Over 2,000 trucks, 2,000 airplanes, and millions of shells were produced during this time.
The first post war model, the Austin 20, rolled out to disappointing sales. A smaller follow-up known as the Austin 12 hit the market in 1921, but it couldn't generate enough income to keep the factory open. The company's fate was then left to a coin flip. Herbert Austin took a half crown coin from his pocket--heads the company stayed open, tails it... View more closed. After the coin landed heads up, he spoke to the workforce. Following an explanation of the company's poor financial health, he asked the workers to work a month sans pay so the company could survive. In exchange for that, he offered a job for life as long as the company was around.
1922 saw a reversal of fortunes with the introduction of the simple, inexpensive Austin Seven. By 1925, Austin upped employment to 8,000 workers and production to 25,000 cars. The Seven helped the company weather the worldwide depression--it was so successful that other companies built the car under license, including BMW, Nissan, Bantam, and Rosengart.
WWII saw Austin return to truck and airplane production. In 1952, the company merged with the Nuffield Organization to form the British Motor Corp. By the mid-1950s, the Longbridge plants employed 21,000 people and produced 193,000 cars annually.
The biggest success came in 1959 with the introduction of the Mini. While all of BMC's brands would soon feature a Mini model or variant, they initially all ran Austin powertrains. U.S. Mini sales would continue until 1972.
The late '60s saw the parent company changed names from British Motor Corp to British Motor Holdings, only to be taken over by Leyland Motors forming British Leyland Motor Corp. Eventually the name was shortened to just British Leyland. In the late '70s and early '80s, the Austin Metro, Maestro, and Montego were introduced alongside the long-running Mini. British Aerospace bought British Leyland in 1986, and they discontinued the brand in 1987. But the Montego, Maestro, and Metro would continue production--just badgeless, and only for the British home market.
Rights to the branding were bounced around from buyer to buyer. It sold from British Aerospace to BMW to MG Rover, then Nanjing Automobile Group and finally the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) at the end of 2007. The possibility of name revival has been suggested several times over the course of Chinese ownership, as it already has more recognition in the European market than any of SAIC-owned makes. View less
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