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Joseph Lucas Ltd
of Great King Street, Birmingham, 19. Telephone: Northern 5201 (12 lines).
Telegraphic Address: "Lucas, Birmingham". (1937)
In 1897 a public company, Joseph Lucas Ltd was formed with a nominal
share capital of £225,000 to take over the Lucas business. The company
was registered on 12 November, to acquire the business of Joseph Lucas
and Son, manufacturers of cycle lamps and other accessories.
1902 Supply by the company to the motor industry of non-electrical goods
began, and was followed a few years later by the company's entry into the
electrical field with the manufacture of car batteries and dynamos, and
lighting sets for sale to car owners. Oil lamp production began.
1906 H. Johnson employed
1913 April. Advert for the 'King of the Road' lamps.
1914 Manufacturers of dynamo lighting systems for motor cars, motoralities
and cyclealities. Specialities: "Tom Bowling" ship lamps, motor car lamps,
horns. Employees 1,600.
1914 Expansion in the manufacture of electrical equipment followed the
company's acquisition for the sum of £9,000, of the share capital
and business of Thomson-Bennett which made magnetos. From this early takeover
of the Thomson-Bennett magneto business stemmed the paramount interest
of Lucas in the supply of electrical equipment for the motor industry.
1914 The company started its main growth in 1914 with a bulk order contract
to supply the Morris Motor Company with electrical equipment.
WWI The company was engaged principally in the manufacture of shells, fuses
and electrical equipment for aircraft and military vehicles. In this period
it also began the manufacture of starter motors which had by then been
developed in America.
1920 April Car starter motor details.
1920 October. Exhibited at the Commercial Motor Exhibition at Olympia with
electric lighting and starting units.
From 1923 Mr. P. F. B. Bennett (later Lord Bennett of Edgbaston), one of
the two former partners in the Thomson-Bennett business, and Mr. Oliver
Lucas, a grandson of the founder of the Lucas business, were until Mr.
Lucas's death in 1948 Joint Managing Directors of the company. They established
close personal relations with the principal vehicle manufacturers and themselves
became leading personalities in the motor industry.
By 1923 over half its output of starting and lighting equipment was supplied
to Morris. The value of the Morris business to Lucas is illustrated by
the fact that in the four years from 1921 to 1925, Morris's sales of vehicles
jumped from 3,000 a year to 55,000. At the same time, however, Lucas was
selling in increasing quantities to other manufacturers, including Armstrong
Siddeley, Rover, Standard and Triumph,
with the result that by 1926 the proportion of Morris business to Lucas's
total sales had dropped to about one-third.
In 1926, they gained an exclusive contract with Austin.
In 1926, Lucas obtained the contract for the following year for the whole
of Austin's requirements of starting, lighting and ignition equipment.
For the year 1925-26, Lucas's production of such electrical sets for supply as initial equipment averaged 2,000 a week.
Between 1920 and 1925 Lucas laid down the pattern of its present distribution
and service arrangements. It established its own depots in London, Liverpool,
Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol,
Dublin and Belfast for local distribution to wholesalers, traders and the
public and for service and repairs.
Between 1925 and 1929 a number of wholesale electrical stockists and repairers
were appointed as Battery Service Agents to stock, supply and service not
only Lucas batteries but also other Lucas motor vehicle goods, including
spare parts for repairs. Lucas also established a number of its own trade
and repair outlets which it operated through County Electrical Services,
a company it formed for the purpose through nominee shareholders. Lucas
did not publicly disclose its ownership of these outlets and has said that
the reason was that it wished to test customers' reactions to its products
and service, and that the information obtained through its own depots was
always coloured to some extent and not sufficiently reliable.
The development of the company in the inter-war years was marked not only
by rapid internal growth due to the increased demands of the vehicle manufacturers
but also by the acquisition of a number of other businesses and by certain
important agreements made with other electrical equipment manufacturers,
British and foreign. Lucas has said that amongst the reasons for its present
dominant position in the motor electrical industry are (i) that its competitors
got into financial difficulties with the collapse of the boom after the
first world war, (ii) that competitors were in a relatively worse position
than Lucas was when the American motor trade threatened to submerge the
British motor trade even in the British market (before the introduction
in 1915 of the McKenna duties) and (iii) that when the outlook was black
it acquired certain competitors who were in financial trouble. Lucas attaches
importance to the fact that among the businesses of which it acquired control
were its two biggest competitors C. A. Vandervell and Co and Rotax.
1927 Acquired B. L. I. C..
1929 Acquired A. Rist and Powell and Hanmer.
1930 Acquired M. L. Magneto Syndicate and North and Sons.
Around 1930, Lucas and Smiths
established a trading agreement to avoid competition in each others markets.
1937 British Industries Fair Advert for 'Leadership'. Battery; Car, Motorcycle
and Cycle Electrical and Non-Electrical Equipment. (Electricity: Industrial
and Domestic Section - Stand No. Cb.601)
1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers
1939 Acquired Express Magneto (Repairs) and Electrical Co.
1939 Opened new factory at Shaftmore Lane, Hall Green.
WWII Lucas produced electrical equipment for military and civil vehicles
and for aircraft. Many of its standard products were adapted for war uses:
for example, its windscreen-wiper motors were used to operate aerial cameras
and its starter motors were adapted for the electrical control of tank
gun turrets. Outside its normal fields, Lucas produced a wide variety of
military requirements including gun turrets, aircraft wing sections, primers,
fuses, anti-aircraft shells, bombs of various kinds, control and release
mechanisms and metal pressings. It also undertook research work for the
Government, including research and development work on jet propulsion in
factories it took over specially for the purpose.
1943 Acquired David B. Irvine (Edinburgh).
1944 Acquired Avon Electrical Services.
1945 Acquired Bon Accord Electrical Repairs.
1948 Acquired Butlers.
1949 Acquired Auto Services Electrical Co (Falmouth).
1951 Name changed.
1953 Acquired Wrexham Motor and Electrical Engineering Co.
1954 Acquired Starting, Lighting and Ignition Services (Midlands).
1954 Acquired Auto Electric Services (Stourbridge).
1957 In addition, Lucas acquired in 1957 a 50 per cent, interest in Siba
1958 Acquired Cox and Co (R.W.).
1960 Acquired Harry Rawlings and Co.
1960 AA image on this page.
1961 Manufacturers of electrical equipment and accessories for motor-cycles,
aircraft, cars, and cycles, including lighting sets, dynamos, dip and switch
reflectors, horns, coil ignition, batteries, magnetos, lamps, mirrors,
windscreen wipers, hydraulic jacks, brakes, starters, wrenches and generators.
Also manufacture fuel and combustion system equipment for gas turbine engines
and oil burning equipment for marine boilers.
1962 Acquired Gravesend Car Electrical Co.
1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Wide range of products.
1972 Centenary of company. Now employ 100,000 persons with 60 manufacturing
and distribution companies.
1996 Lucas Industries and the Variety Corporation of America
merged to become LucasVariety plc.
1999 LucasVariety was acquired by TRW and American company.