Herbert Austin (1866-1941), later Sir Herbert, the former manager of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company founded The Austin Motor Company in 1905, at Longbridge, which was then in Worcestershire (Longbridge became part of Birmingham in 1911 when its boundaries were expanded). The first car was a conventional 5 litre four cylinder model with chain drive with about 200 being made in the first five years. In World War I Austin grew enormously with government contracts for everything from artillery to aircraft and the workforce expanded from around 2500 to 22,000.
After the war Herbert Austin decided on a one model policy based around the 3620cc 20hp engine and versions included cars, commercials and even a tractor but sales volumes were never enough to fill the vast factory built during war time and the company went into receivership in 1921 but rose again after financial restructuring. To expand the market smaller cars were introduced with the 1661 cc Twelve in 1922 and later the same year the Austin 7, an inexpensive, small and simple car and one of the earliest to be directed at a mass market. At one point it was built under licence by the fledgeling BMW (as the Dixi) and Datsun, as well as Bantam in the U.S., and as the Rosengart in France.
A largely independent United States subsidiary operated under the name American Austin Car Company from 1929 to 1934; it was revived under the name "American Bantam" from 1937 to 1941.