30 June 2012

The Austin / MG Montego

The Austin / MG Montego started life in 1984. It should have been released sooner, but for issues within the company at the time. It replaced the Ital model, which was an unfortunate facelift of the Morris Marina. I remember seeing some around NZ, although not in large numbers. The car itself was underrated by the typically cynical British media and public. I guess years of poor management at BL didn't help. It was a good drive by all accounts, practical and garnered many happy owners. For some it was staid and unimaginative.

The figures below show production figures, followed by UK sales, position achieved in the UK for that year and the percentage of UK sales against production numbers. Comparing production data with sales figures isn't perfect but gives a reasonable insight.

Year Prod UK Pos % UK
1984 58,800 34,700 11th 59%
1985 95,900 74,000 7th 77%
1986 70,600 62,700 7th 89%
1987 73,400 56,200 8th 77%
1988 79,500 63,600 8th 80%
1989 76,500 57,800 10th 76%
1990 50,700 43,800 12th 86%
1991 24,500 23,100 19th 94%
1992 12,900 7,500 ? 58%
1993 15,300 8,200 45th 54%
1994 14,500 7,800 49th 54%
Total 572,600 439,400
Avg 52,050 39,950

Clearly the car needed to have a much larger export market. 77% of cars made sold in the UK was far too many. Some markets I found peak sales for France and The Netherlands are as follows (I'm unsure if Spain and Germany are the best figures):

France 5,100 1990
Spain 4,200 1989
Germany 1,600 1986
Netherlands 800 1986

The Montego should go down in history as a brave effort. In France and Spain it sold well, but German buyers clearly didn't give it a fair go. I believe the French particularly went for the Estate (Wagon) version. BL was poorly managed and Montego production was hampered by industrial unrest. It deserved better.

It was replaced by the Rover 600 (see article on that car under "Brand - BL / MGR")

Pics: http://www.vpoc.info/vpmont.htm


  1. The Montego was at least as good a drive as the Sierra and Cavalier but it was badly hampered by not having a hatchback option. Although it was no less reliable than its rivals the reputational damage done to BL from the 70s meant that its image was impossible to turn round in time.

    The Montego was also significant because it was almost the last 'Austin'. By the mid-80s the fleet competition from Ford and Vauxhall was getting so intense that BL couldn't make a profit on mid-market cars, which led to the logical conclusion to abandon the 'Austin' marque and focus only on the upmarket 'Rover' brand. Thus ended the attempt to sustain a British-owned major car manufacturer.

  2. Nice comment Anon. Hatchbacks are indeed a must in Europe.
    As for being British owned, I guess that ended in 1994 with the disastrous BMW take over.

  3. Thanks RayCee,

    You are right of course that 1994 marked the official end with the sale to BMW, but in terms of an attempt to mix it with the mass-market manufacturers, the failure of the Montego and Maestro to recapture market share from Ford and an increasingly successful Vauxhall meant that Austin-Rover was forced to abandon that strategy and platform-share with Honda instead. And the march 'up market' led to the disastrous (but at the time seemingly logical) sale to BMW.

    Ironically the tables have turned so much that now it is the 'premium' brands like BMW and Audi that are dominating the fleets while the underrated Mondeo suffers. But that is a story that deserves a post to itself.

    Chris G

  4. I don't know too much about fleet sales in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter. If anyone could enlighten me, I would create a blog on it.