Former British Leyland chief Edwardes dies at age 88

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Sir Michael Edwardes, the head of British Leyland during its troubled last years, has died, U.K. newspapers reported. He was 88.

The South African-born executive was appointed chairman of the partially nationalized U.K. group, which included the Austin, Morris, Rover, Jaguar and Triumph brands, in 1977 as the company was mired in industrial disputes that cost it the production of 250,000 cars that year.

Edwardes took on Britain’s then-strong unions and attempted to revive the automaker’s fortunes with factory closures and a product-led recovery. He turned to Honda for help with the launch of the Triumph Acclaim, which was underpinned by technology provided by the Japanese automaker.

In 1982, Edwardes’ contract was not renewed after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher lost confidence in him. His departure coincided with a slow decline in the U.K.’s biggest car company.

In 1994 the automaker, then known as the Rover Group, was bought by BMW, which later sold the company to the Phoenix Consortium group of businessmen. The name was changed to MG Rover. MG Rover went bankrupt and its assets, including a factory in Longbridge, England, and the MG brand, are now owned by China’s SAIC.

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