Review [Book]: The Strange Death of the British Motor Cycle Industry. This book provides a gripping description and analysis of the mis-steps and misfortunes of the British motor cycle industry, from the 1920’s through to the effective death of the industry in the 1970’s. Whilst obviously unrelated to Rover and the P5 / P5B, this book will be of interest to anyone with even a passing interest in Britains manufacturing history.

The book manages to combine detail and analysis together in an engaging and easily-read style that doesn’t demand any prior knowledge of motor cycles or the companies involved. The attitudes, mistakes and economic factors described within this book have many parallels to the attitudes, mistakes and economic factors that were playing-out in parallel within Britain’s motor car industry. Hence this book provides a fascinating wider view to anyone interested in the calamitous events that befell motor car manufacturing in the same period, Rover included.

What’s fascinating about the story is that the mistakes seem clear in retrospect. Instead of the tired old cliche that union militancy killed British manufacturing, it is very apparent that the biggest issues here were an unwillingness of management to adapt their product to changing market trends, a failure of product design, insufficient capital investment, and an arrogance in the face of rising competition from overseas – initially Germany, then Italy, then Japan. The industry retreated at every turn, until eventually there was nowhere left to go.

Whilst car manufacturing may have faced slightly different challenges, many are the same, and the outcome was the same as well. I’ll leave it to you to decide how relevant you think the conclusions are to the fate of the British car industry. Rating:


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