A short personal history of Rearsby Automotive Ltd

Ivor Vaughan CBE August 2015

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The following is a curated collection of personal memories, reflections and events of the history of Rearsby Automotive & Components Ltd, by Ivor Vaughan CBE, Chairman & Managing Director 1978-1996

Ivor Vaughan

CBE, C.Eng, FIMechE, FIET, Comp CMI, BSc (Hons),
Snr Fellow Demontfort Chairman & Managing Director, Rearsby Automotive Ltd 1978-1996

Before my arrival at Rearsby Components in October 1978, I recount a brief history learned from colleagues, back when it was part of Auster, the Pressed Steel Company and the early days of British Leyland (BL) ownerships. It was after Oct 78 that my part in this extraordinary journey began.

I went on to lead the first BL Management Buyout (MBO), a brand new phenomena, in late 1981 where Rearsby Components became Rearsby Automotive Ltd (RAL).

During this time I effectively led three top teams taking the business through significant, sustained and successful change. The principal MBO shareholders remained throughout 1982-96 and in July 1996, following my 50th birthday, the business was sold (on plan) and most regrettably, as it transpired, to lesser mortals. All automotive activities ceased on site in March 2002, after a total 54 years of trading.

This recollection is at times anecdotal and I make no apology... far from it. We all enjoy a tale and its characters - and characters abounded at Rearsby.

Why record the automotive phase? The automotive period from the late 40s to 1996, when the Rearsby MBO team sold out, exceeded the preceding 30 year aircraft phase of Taylorcraft Aeroplanes Ltd/Auster
Aircraft/Beagle Aircraft, by over 20 years.

The automotive business was also the consistently more profitable of the two activities and sustained more employment, notwithstanding the high employment during WWII on war aircraft production/repair.
The aircraft phase was undoubtedly the "sexier", but not as successful as its automotive successor.

From 1978-1996 I was leading the business in its development and growth. However, during 1982-96, following the MBO and free from the shackles of corporate ownership, Rearsby Automotive went through significant and sustained change on an unprecedented scale.

What? We needed to achieve a change in competitiveness on quality, cost, delivery, productivity, management, efficiency and design/development of our products. Why? To match the performance of the leading vehicle Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), 75% of the ex-factory cost of a modern car/van comes from the OEM’s suppliers.

The alternative, easily achievable at the time, was to slide out of business. We set out to learn, learn, learn. Teamwork was vital. At the top, up, down and across, at all levels.

I made enormous efforts to get all of us to travel in a common but clear direction. “You can’t be lost if you don’t know where you are going.” You can’t.

As the Japanese proverb goes “Better one thousand people take one step forward, than one man takes a thousand steps.”
I simply facilitated a team of ordinary people to achieve quite extraordinary things. It was that simple. The only difference between US and THEM is - US!

Furthermore, I witnessed (1962-2002), together with a team of excellent colleagues, the triumphs and traumas of the business and the changing UK Motor Industry. Indeed - we had a front row seat throughout.

I was the longest serving Rearsby leader, but by no means the longest serving employee. Although I refer to the period prior to 1978, if anyone has any additions or corrections please feel free to share them with me. The same invitation applies to the period 1978 to 1996 while I was present and would welcome any comments or corrections to the following personal reflections.

Finally, I am tempted to offer brief observations from a slight distance, as to why a tremendously successful part of the UK automotive industry went so quickly into decline, post 1996/7. Equally, if anyone has any comment on the period after I left in 1996, until the de-cline and fall leading to cessation of operations at Rearsby under ‘corporate’ ownership in 2002, I would be most interested in hearing them.

Please click on the Contents page and also the Gallery to see past brochures and other Rearsby Automotive publications. The gallery will be extended as images be-come available.

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Contact me at ivorvaughan@aol.com or ivorvaughan@cwgsy.net

Copyright © 2015 Ivor Vaughan