Sunday, 8 February 2009

Roland Pike Autobiography - Chapter 24

The problems & politics of BSA in the 1950's

Here is a little poem I made up.

The Motor Cycle Industry.
The labourers toiled, the craftsmen wrought,

The Draftsmen drew, the thinkers thought,
The planners planned, the salesmen sold,
But the bikes they sold looked very old.
Thats not to say they were not fine,
But ancient was the whole design.
The buyers paid their hard-earned gold -
For new machines that looked like old.
Designers sat and wracked their brains,
And got rude answers for their pains.
The things they drew were not too bold,
With ideas that were centuries old,
The stylist and the artist came
And still the drawings looked the same.
The conception lacked that final touch
Of which the keen demand so much.
Just then there came that way by chance
A lad who knew he could enhance
The models' looks and make them go
If only they would let him show.
He was taken at his word, and then
Got out his papers, books and pen.
Set down his ideas, plans and thought
He'd told them all, and kept back nought.
"Oh that won't work, nor that" they cried
As new ideas were made and tried.
Or when they did, the critics say
"We thought of that before today"
"That one's no good" they said in test,
"The ancient ones were always best".
They were so clever with their tricks, They ousted him with politics.

Triumphs came into BSA at the end of 1956 and took charge of the company that had bought it, only a few years before. Jack Sangster sold Triumph to BSA for $4 million, but somehow he still controlled Triumph and eventually got control of both companies.

This move did not seem to do BSA any good, they already appeared to be on a slippery road and no one appeared to know what to do to stop the slide. They laid off or fired 400 production workers at the end of 1956 and another 400 people at the beginning Of 195. This last 400 included skilled personnel, they were selected purely by seniority which was a big mistake as it left them with a lot of chiefs and no indians.

Some of those retained had not done anything useful for years but were just hanging on for their pensions. Triumph although they had high production figures did not produce as much of their motor cycles as BSA who owned Idoson Motor Cylinders, Monochrome, Jessups Steel and several small suppliers.

When BSA bought Triumphs it would have been logical for a BSA man to have been put in charge at Triumphs and to have them use BSA forgings, Daimler & Idoson castings and their research group to work in Group research at Small Heath, but that is not the way it turned out.
The class structure at BSA was quite feudal, there was no sense of democracy. You could not go upstairs to the Managers office without the Commissionaire escorting you unless you were part of management. There were five different eating areas. One for the Directors, a Monthly staff room, Foreman’s dining room, office dining room and the workers canteen. I suppose there was something to be said for this, but in this day and age most companies would have reduced the number of dining rooms to two or three.

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