By Chucky de Hammer.
Who owns the brand name ‘Austin Healey’? Now there’s a parlour game you could play over many a festive season. I only asked this question because brand names – even dead ones – can be highly valued within a business, prize assets to be traded and passed round sub-divisions, holding companies, move across borders and have multiple homes in various solicitor’s drawers. You’re sitting there one day thinking Ransom’s Humidors is owned by Castro Cigar Importers Inc and then get the rude shock that the name actually belongs to Gerald Greedie in Kidderminster. So it can be enlightening to know who owns what.
Take ATCO for instance, makers of some of the finest mowers ever known. A quintessentially British product – owned by an outfit called GGP based in Milan. I didn’t expect to see that, although it was comforting to see the name hadn’t been bought by some garlic munchers. George Bishop once said everything the French think they lead the world at – food, plonk, clothes, cars – the Italians are far better, and he never spoke a truer word.
Back to the search, this time for some automotive names. To play this game all you have to do is go to the Patents Office search engine, type in the name, select Class 12 (which broadly covers automotive manufacturers) and then take a look through the results. You’ll find info on who owns what of course, but also see applications by other people looking to take a brand name for themselves.
For example, Hillman appears to be owned by Hillman Motors in Stockport, but some chap in Glasgow also tried to register the name a few years back, and another fellow in North London used to have the name for a while too. Reliant are owned by parts firm in Cannock who have fended off some Americans trying to use the name for brake components. Humber are still owned by Pug (I suppose the French had to have something). Panther’s name is owned by the late Rob Jankel’s wife. A business in Coventry tried to register the name Standard Swallow but it got opposed by British Motor Heritage. And so it goes on.
You can also indulge in a spot of light pedantry, if that floats your Riva. Sunbeam are registered with a fellow in Poole. Ah, but that’s for motorcycles; for electric cars the name belongs to a firm in Edinburgh. But wait, for bicycles it belongs to Raleigh. Oh, and for petrol-powered motors the name remains under Peugeot. I bet you can already see how this could make the long winter nights fly by. Go on, impress your mates with this quite incredible knowledge. Or the cat.
So, who owns Austin Healey? Well it
seems to be owned by SAIC of China. Which, after all that fun* was a bit of a let-down.