Is BMW About to Revive the Triumph Marque?

BMW is known to desire a new brand, so it is possible that Triumph could be resurrected

By Andy Bannister

10.14.2007

Rumours are circulating in the UK motoring press suggesting that BMW plans to revive one of the classic British sports car names – Triumph – in a bid to broaden its portfolio and maintain current sales growth.

This past week one of the UK’s two main weekly motoring publications has a cover “scoop” complete with speculative pictures of what a new retro-inspired Triumph TR4 could look like. Meanwhile, its rival weekly publication has a contradictory story saying the company has no plans to revive the old British nameplate.

As a result of its ill-fated purchase of Britain’s Rover Group a few years ago BMW owns the Triumph car name, which it held on to when disposing of other Rover assets. This is not straightforward, however, as a separate and unconnected company still makes Triumph motorcycles, which could spell big trademark issues.

Triumph’s heyday was arguably in the 1960s when it offered a big range of sports cars like the Spitfire, GT6 and TR4, but the company soon lost its way in the debacle of the British Leyland merger, and its products increasingly lacked direction. The TR5 and TR6 became heavy and old-fashioned, the Spitfire stagnated, and the glamorous new Stag grand tourer was a sales disaster thanks to an unreliable new V8 engine.

In Britain Triumph was also well-know for its saloons, including the Herald, Vitesse, Toledo, Dolomite and the bigger 2000/2500 models. With upmarket interiors and Italian styling they had the potential to be – ironically enough – British BMWs, but somehow this never quite came off.

The death-knell for Triumph sounded in 1975 with the launch of the wedge-shaped TR7, which was actually the best-selling TR but took the company down an almighty blind alley. Its peculiar styling, underpowered 2.0-litre engine, very poor build quality and – initially – lack of a roadster version all counted against it. The much better V8-engined TR8 derivative came too late to save it and was never even launched in the home market.

Triumph’s last-ever car (to date) was the 1981 Acclaim saloon, a dull 1300cc notchback which was simply a British-built version of the Civic-derived Honda Ballade, securing it a footnote in history as one of the first Japanese cars made in Europe. There was a tremendous fuss at the time about the Japanese circumventing import quotas through this route, but in truth the Acclaim was a modest seller and by 1984 it and the Triumph name was dead, replaced by the badge-engineered Rover 213, also a thinly-disguised Honda.

Would a renewed Triumph make sense for BMW? The retro Mini has certainly proved a huge hit and shows properly designed and built British cars are still a saleable commodity around the world. Whether the name of Triumph retains much resonance outside the classic fraternity is debatable though, and a new Triumph roadster could be uncomfortably close to BMW’s own Z4.

The rumour-mill suggests a decision is due by the end of the year. I’m not holding my breath.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant.net – All Rights Reserved

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

Share This Post On

7 Comments

  1. If BMW does this, I think at least part of the value is bringing back the Triumph saloon range. It would be a great lower-priced entree into the world of BMW, much like the the Mini is now. It’s an expensive little hatchback, but it’s got upmarket driving dynamics, looks and interior, but still costs a lot less than any BMW sedan. Could a new Triumph fill the same role, but as a sedan?

  2. Wouldn’t it be great to have an update on the tw-seater Triumph GT6, but this time with the BMW 6-cylinder?

  3. Mini has been such a success I don’t see how they could not consider building a new Triumph. Mini sales have far exceeded their initial projections for the business.

  4. BMW owns the Austin-Healey name, too. To me, that’s a better choice than Triumph. Especially in the United States, where the Austin-Healey name is golden. The Triumph name evokes mixed feelings.

  5. Seems like none of you guys ever drove a real triumph. Take the MK2:
    They already tuned the hell out of the car back in 1965 and when you sit in there and bring this car to 9000rpm this is an adrenalin rush you will never forget.
    BMW should take maybe a motorcycle engine or a small 4-cylinder and make it a superlightweight car, who needs a cockpit that looks like it was designed by the NASA if you only want a cheap racer to have fun with on a summer weekend.
    Austin Healey in Europe is a toy for old men with too much money, the Mini is a toy for rich kids, so lets make a toy for the wild boys – less money more fun!

  6. Just a correction from an earlier quote regarding BMW owning the Austin Healey Name.
    Well unfortunately BMW does not own the rights to the Austin Healet marque.
    The Chinese Company Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) who bought the assets of the bankrupt Mg Rover Group own the rights along with Austin and all the MG names like MG Midget.
    The names that BMW retained are Triumph & Riley. It Sold the Rover name to Ford in Sept 07 as part of a first refusal deal when Ford bought Land Rover & to protect the Land Rover Name.

  7. BOO! to Austin-Healey……….TRIUMPH RULES now as then!
    BRING BACK THE TRIUMPH.
    I’ll buy one………..but I’d never buy a stinkin Austin-Healey.

    lol

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.