I will try my best to provide detailed info on various cars and what is like to live with them, I have already produced a few for Jaguar-car-forums, I will do my best to be unbiased, but it will be hard for some cars. I will re-produce press releases and copy from other motoring news.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Rover a brief history 1994 - 2005

Back in 2005 something that had not happened in decades happened to the UK motor industry, MG-Rover, the last mass producer of cars in the UK went into receivership, immediately putting 6,000 Longbridge workers out of work and countless thousands in associated businesses joined them on the ever increasing unemployment line.

It was less then ten years earlier that everyone thought that the MGR group, which also included Land Rover and Range Rover, as well as Rover and MG were secure for a long time, as BMW the German automotive giant had stepped in and purchased the company from BAe 80% and Honda 20%, however no one was to know what was to occur over the following 6 years of BMW ownership.

P38 Range Rover
Mk1 Rover 800

Land Rover Freelander
Rover 100
Once the BMW takeover was complete it became obvious that the bean counters did not want to have any of the Honda derived products, cars like the Rover 600 (1993-1998) developed into further income generating products, a coupe and Estate would have been a great earner for Rover but BMW did not want the car as they had to pay royalties for each one made back to Honda as they did for the 800 and 400, so further development on these was also pretty poor.
Rover 600

Mark 2 versions of the 400 and 800, which were under development before the takeover were launched but BMW wanted to get rid of the 600 and by then ageing 800 so vast sums went into development of a new range of cars to replace both, however it was becoming clear that money, which BMW had plenty of, was not what was needed but one car to replace both, and so Project Isis was born.

This led to the Rover 75, the 75 underwent  a lot of development work, it was the stiffest car they had produced, making it very precise in driving, it had the the K-Series petrol engines (1.8 - 2.5KV6) and BMW sourced diesels (2.0L), the interiors harked back to the glory days of Rover, wood and leather, the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) were the best the company had achieved to date, it was also well specified and well priced, what could go wrong.
Rover 75
The Rover 75 received a fair amount of criticism for being a little cramped in the rear, but one has to say that in terms of ambience, there was little in the class to touch it. The style of the seats bears a deliberate resemblance to the those Rover P6.
Rover 75 Interior
What indeed could go wrong, well, when it came to the launch of the Rover 75 at the British motor show in Birmingham,  a launch in 1998 that was earlier than originally planned, as Geneva the following year was the original date for showing the car to the world, The brand was there in all it's glory the 75, there for all the world to see, even overshadowing the brand new and world premier of the Jaguar S-Type, when later than scheduled Bernd Pischetsrieder, the then BMW CEO stood in front of the worlds press and stated that  

"Short term actions are required for the long term future of the Rover Group and talks are taking place with the British Government about the whole problem".

It was not surprising then that the worlds press, instead of writing about the great new car from Rover, how this car can take on the worlds best and win, wrote about how Rover was in dire straights and that BMW would close the factory and Rover Group, this immediately caused panic back at Longbridge, staff left, buyers started buy elsewhere and sales started to drop.

After the new 200 and 400 were launched back in 1995, the only significant new product was the 1995 MGf, 1997 Freelander, 1998 Mk2 Discovery and 1998 Rover 75, all these were under development before BMW took control, so in the six years of ownership nothing totally new was produced within the BMW era, however things were happening behind the scenes, tens of Millions spent on factory refurbishments and upgrades, the 75 Estate was planned and developed, a 75 sport was developed, but none of these come to production, facelifted versions of the 200 and 400 were introduced and renamed 25 and 45.

Rover R30 Concept 1
Rover R30 Concept 2
As billions of people around the globe looked forward to celebrating the new millennium plans were afoot within BMW to bring Rover Group down, within weeks inn the new year the rover offices had been raided by BMW staff and they had removed all technical details of a new mid sized car known as R30, along with the sale of the Land/Range Rover brands to Ford in a $1.8 billion deal left the remaining company with little or no forward products.

BMW then, after a failed sale to Alchemy Partners (a venture capital company) sold the remnants of the Rover Group to a consortium called the Phoenix Consortium, led by former Rover Chairman John Towers, they purchased the company for £10.00, yes ten pounds, they were given all the stock that was in fields across the country and a dowery of £500 million, The Rover 75 would be moved from Cowley to Longbridge and the new Mini from Longbridge to Cowley at BMW expense, after the deal was done, further due diligence was done and it was found that Powertrain, the company that makes all the engines that are used by MGR was not part of the sale, and subsequently this was returned to Phoenix.

Once everything was sorted, the new MG-Rover company pushed the launch of the 75 Tourer and then surprised the motoring press with the news of three new cars, and a facelifted MGf now known as TF, the three new cars were the ZR ZS and ZT with the estate ZT being called the ZT-T, these cars were heavily modified underneath metalamd were very good sports saloons.
The new Z Range of cars plus the new TF
The new company continued to improve these cars, before project drive came in, this was a significant development within the company to reduce the cost of each model, by deletion, combination with other models or reduction in quantities, this was successful, too successful, it made the product seem tinny and noisy within, when sound deadening was removed, as time went on, press reports on these new Z-series of cars were getting better, and sales of the ZR especially took off, the ZS soon over took the Rover 45 in sales, but the Rover 75 still stayed ahead of the ZT. 

As positive press and awards continued to come in, negative press started to out weigh this by excessive pay-packets and pension allowances by the top management, the press would not let this go and seemed to start on a witch hunt, regardless of all the facts about continuing employment of 6,000 employees, MGR started to fight back, there was failed joint ventures with Proton and China's Brilliance, TWR was developing a new mid sized car the RD/X60, however TWR went into administration causing more headaches for MGR, a concept Rover TCV was shown at the British Motorshow unfortunately this car was not the prettiest car that has graced the great halls, it was a this point that things started to really get silly.
Rover TCV
Towards the end, two new halo cars were produced, the MG SV, this was a super car with dubious looks and unbelievable power, and a V8 powered Rover 75, both cars went into production and and sold very small amounts, and cost a small fortune to develop, the company alsoo invested heavily in motor sport, BTCC for the MG ZS, the ZR was in rallying and in the MG cup along with the MGTf, just before they went bust a 385 bhp ZT was being developed for the German Touring cars (DTM).
Rover 75 V8

Both these two cars showed the world that they can still build great cars on a budget, but money was pouring out of the company and sales were dropping every month, reports about issues continued and comments from people like Jeremy Clarkeson also pushed the company further down. 

Opinions about the products were not helped when, with the help of India's TATA a mildly facelifted TATA Indica was given the Rover treatment and called CityRover, this car was totally panned by everyone from the press right to the buying public and even the Rover fans, this was not a bad car, in fact it had some good points, it is such a shame it was priced far too high with the faults it had, you couldn't forgive the car these issues at such a high price point and so it failed also.

Time was now running out and with only months left a last ditch facelift was made to the three main models, however it was far too late and even though these facelifts and new colour schemes breathed new life into the cars sales were now well below a break even figure and losses were being stacked up by millions of pounds every week, selling the intellectual property of the 25 and 75 to a Chinese company NAC brought £75 million to the table, but this was just a drop in a vast ocean.

Continued negotiations with NAC to set up a joint venture to produce cars was dragging, and I suspect that it was dragged on, on purpose to get the end result that was eventually played out, and then a purchase of the entire group at a vastly knocked down value was what happened, But they were not going down with out one last hurrah, and this was one that shocked the motoring world, two concepts appeared at the very last minute to try and get the joint venture sorted, but this did not work.
Rover 75 V8 Coupe
MG TF Fixed head Coupe

Then it happened, that fateful day in April 2005, the end had come, and MG-Rover was no more, no more Rovers, no more MG's, the plant closed and the weird silence befell the area, no banging of presses, no transporters running back and forth, no humming of plant machinery, the end was here, after so many years of near misses and last minute saving's there were no saviours this time, Rover was gone.............

2005 - today will follow