Heaton, Joe (2007)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This is a study of the decline and collapse, in 1973, of the Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd, primarily a motorcycle manufacturing company and pre-WW2 world market-leader. The study also integrates and extends several earlier investigations into the collapse that concentrated on events in the Motorcycle Division, rather than on the BSA Group, its directors and its overall strategy. The collapse of BSA was due to failures of strategy, direction and management by directors, who were not up to running one of Britain’s major industrial companies after it was exposed to global competition. While the charge, by Boston Consulting and others, that the directors sacrificed growth for short term profits was not proven, their failure to recognise the importance of motorcycle market share and their policy of segment retreat in response to Japanese competition, played a large part in the decline of the company. Their ill-fated diversification policy harmed the motorcycle business, but capital could have been raised in the 1950s to re-equip its manufacturing facilities, had the directors had the confidence to do so. The study also examined whether the ‘cultural critique’ of Barnett C, Wiener M.J. et al provides a valid alternative explanation for the collapse. While the hypothesis has some plausibility, too many variables and unresolved supplementary questions arise for this to contribute effectively to a rigorous account of the causes of the demise of the firm.
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