Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Lloyd automobile mystery

This was going to be a complaint about the misleading subtitle of Dominic Sandbrook's Das Auto, which spent more time whingeing about the failure of BMC (Austin, Morris etc) than on German successes. First, the British failure was an oft-repeated story (though Sandbrook didn't mention the part played by the financial services industry in failing to support investment); secondly, by concentrating on VW and to a lesser extent on BMW and Mercedes, he didn't give due credit to the other interesting German manufacturers of the post-war era. Looking up the details of these raised an interesting question.

Volkswagen was very important, and Sandbrook gave due prominence to its rescue by REME, and the failure by both Rootes Group in the UK and Ford of America to take a stake in the new company. However, there were other export successes. People of my generation will remember the "bubble-cars" and "microcars" HeinkelIsetta (produced by BMW under licence from its Italian originators), Goggomobil and especially the Messerschmitt which gave rise to a number of wry jokes when it appeared on British roads.

However, some of the most popular German cars did not register over here. I remember from my trips in the 1950s (my father was serving in REME in the British zone at the time) that Borgward family cars like the Isabella were as common as Mercs and BMWs, and that Lloyd (part of the Borgward group) was a favourite microcar marque. Borgward probably deserves an English-language programme to himself.

That Lloyd name always intrigued me, but I hadn't bothered to research its origins until now. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_(Automarke) tells us that "the Bremen motor-manufacturer NAMAG (Norddeutsche Automobil und Motoren Actien Gesellschaft) brought out automobiles under the marque Lloyd from 1906 onwards". The question remains: why Lloyd? The obvious answer is to associate the new machines with the cachet of Lloyd's of London, but I wonder whether it was also inspired by David Lloyd George, who was appointed President of the Board of Trade in the 1906 Liberal government. Ll G's wikipedia entry states that his work on the 1906 Trades Disputes Act attracted praise from Kaiser Wilhelm, so he clearly already had a continental, if not international, reputation.

Does anybody know the answer?

No comments: