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Rover Group

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Rover Group plc
Fate Broken up
Predecessor BL plc
Successor BMW Mini
Land Rover
MG Rover Group
Founded 1986 (originally founded in 1975 as British Leyland Ltd later BL plc)
Defunct 2000
Headquarters Longbridge, Birmingham, West Midlands, England
Key people Graham Day, Kevin Morley
Industry Automobiles
Products Motor vehicles
Parent Nationalised industry 1986-1987
British Aerospace 1987-1994
BMW 1994-2000
Subsidiaries Leyland Vehicles (until 1987); Land Rover Group; Austin Rover later Rover Cars

Rover Group plc was the name that was given by the British government, in 1986, to the nationalisation(state-owned) vehicle manufacturer British Leyland or BL.

After divesting of its commercial vehicle and bus manufacturing divisions the company then consisted of the car manufacturing arm Austin Rover Group and the Land Rover Group. This group was privatised in 1988 by the sale of the company to British Aerospace, who retained Canadian Graham Day as joint CEO/Chairman, and made Kevin Morley MD for Rover cars. On 31 January 1994 BAe sold the company on to German vehicle manufacturer BMW.[1][2] Millions of pounds of investment by BMW failed to turn the company into profit.[2] BMW retained Mini production, sold Land Rover to Ford and the remainder to the Phoenix Consortium as The MG Rover Group. Land-Rover was subsequently sold by Ford to TATA Motors; the rights to the Rover brand name are now owned by TATA Motors of India, owners of both Land-Rover and Jaguar - in addition TATA Motors also own the Daimler and Lanchester brands.

Corporate historyEdit

Rover Group Plc was formed by renaming BL Plc in 1986. It changed its name again in 1989 to Rover Group Holdings Limited and then in 1995 to BMW (UK) Holdings Limited [1].

In 1988, the Rover Group was sold to British Aerospace for £150 million. BAe later sold the Group to BMW for £800 million in 1994.[3]

In March 2000, BMW announced its plans to sell the Rover Group. Within two months, the sale of the group had been completed. After negotiations with Alchemy Partners broke down, the Rover and MG car business was purchased by the Phoenix Consortium, who continued to build cars at the Longbridge plant - including the original Mini for the final few months of its 41-year production life. The business operated as MG Rover Group, with ownership of the Rover brand being retained by BMW but licensed to MG Rover. Land Rover was sold to the Ford Motor Company, while BMW retained the rights to build the new MINI that was due for a launch a year later. BMW also retained the rights to the Riley and Triumph marques.

After a financial crisis and talks of acquisition or investment by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation failed in early 2005, the MG Rover Group went into receivership. After liquidation, SAIC ended up with ownership of the rights to the Rover 75 (though not under that name), as well as rights to the Austin, Morris, and Wolseley marques. Nanjing Automobile Corporation bought the rights to the MG name. In December 2007, Nanjing and SAIC announced their merger, thus reuniting many of the marques of the former Austin Rover group.

TimelineEdit

  • 1986: B.L. Plc renamed as The Rover Group Plc
  • 1986: Rover SD1 production ceases after 10 years and the car is replaced by a new model called the Rover 800 - the result of a joint venture with Honda which led to the manufacture of the Rover 800 and the Honda Legend.
  • 1987: The Leyland Trucks division (which by then included Freight Rover Vans) merged with DAF and then floated. (Note: After being declared bankrupt in 1993 the new DAF NV company split into three independent companies; the UK van operation became LDV, the Dutch operation resumed trading as DAF Trucks and the UK truck operation resumed trading as Leyland Trucks. Both truck operations were later acquired by PACCAR of the USA.)
  • 1987: Leyland Bus floated off; bought by Volvo Buses in 1988
  • 1987: Unipart spare parts division sold off via management buyout
  • 1987: Sterling Motor Cars set up in USA to market the rebadged Rover 800-series as the Sterling 825 sedan (US)
  • 1988: Rover Group privatised; sold to British Aerospace
  • 1989: The new Rover 200 goes on sale, abandoning the four-door saloon bodystyle in favour of a three- and five-door hatchback. It is also sold as the Honda Concerto. Maestro and Montego production is scaled down as a result.
  • 1990: The Rover 400 - saloon version of the Rover 200 - goes on sale. Also going into production is the heavily updated Metro, which features modernised body styling, a reworked interior and a new range of engines.
  • 1991: The Rover 800 receives a major facelift.
  • 1992: Convertible and Coupe versions of the Rover 200 are launched.
  • 1993: The Rover 600 is launched, based on the Honda Accord but re-styled and using a mixture of Honda and Rover's own engines.
  • 1994: 31 January - British Aerospace announces the sale of its 80% majority share of Rover Group to BMW.[2]
  • 1994: 21 February - Honda announces it is selling its 20% share of Rover Group causing major problems in Rover's supply chain which was reliant on Honda.[2]
  • 1994: An estate version of the Rover 400 is launched, along with an updated Metro which sees the 14-year-old nameplate shelved and rebadged as the Rover 100. Maestro and Montego production also ends.
  • 1995: New versions of the Rover 200 and Rover 400 go on sale, though this time they are entirely different cars. The Rover 400 is a reworked, upmarket version of the latest Honda Civic, despite the Rover-Honda collaboration finishing a year earlier. The new MG F goes on sale, bringing back the MG badge on a mass-production sports car for the first time since 1980.
  • 1998: The Rover 75 goes on sale as a successor to both the Rover 600 and Rover 800.
  • 1999: The Rover 200 and Rover 400 are facelifted to be re-badged as the Rover 25 and Rover 45 respectively.
  • 2000: Land Rover sold by BMW to Ford
  • 2000: The new MINI launched by BMW, produced at the Cowley assembly plant.
  • 2000: Remainder of company sold to the Phoenix Consortium for a nominal £10 and becomes the MG Rover Group[4]

ModelsEdit

Rover 800 seriesEdit

Main article: Rover 800

Although the Rover 800 went on sale shortly after Austin Rover became the Rover Group, it had actually been developed entirely by Austin Rover and was a result of the final new model development by BL - it was developed in conjunction with Honda. It sold well among buyers in the executive market, with a facelift in 1991 keeping its appeal reasonably fresh. However, it stagnated after a replacement targeted for the 1992 model year was cancelled. Many of its duties as a flagship were performed by the 600. By its demise in late 1998, it was looking considerably dated.

Rover 200 series Edit

Main article: Rover 200 Series

The Rover Group's first significant new car launch was the Rover 200, which was introduced in October 1989. Unlike its predecessor, it was a three- or five-door hatchback instead of a four-door saloon. It used a new range of 16-valve K Series petrol engines as well as a Peugeot 1.9 diesel and 1.8 turbodiesel both fitted to the Phase 1 Peugeot 405.[citation (source) needed] Sales were stronger than its successors, and its launch coincided with a winding-down in production of the similarly-sized Maestro, which finally ceased production at the end of 1994 having spent the final years of its life as a budget alternative to the more upmarket Rover 200. Coupe and cabriolet versions of the 200 were later sold, and these were sold alongside the all-new 1995 model and continued until that model was upgraded to become the Rover 25 in 1999. The 1989 Rover 200 was a strong seller throughout its life and its successor continued this trend, though its final year of production (1999) saw a significant dip in sales. These strong sales were not as high as the ever-popular Ford Escort. The Rover 200 had actually been around since 1988 as the Longbridge-built Honda Concerto, which offered a higher level of equipment but only achieved a fraction of its sales.

Rover 400 seriesEdit

Main article: Rover 400 Series

At the beginning of 1990, Rover launched the Rover 400 range. The 400 was essentially a four-door version of the 200 hatchback, but was slightly longer and offered more stowage space. It was sold as an alternative to the likes of the Ford Sierra and Vauxhall Cavalier, but was never able to match the success of these cars. An estate version of the 400 was launched in 1994, and continued alongside the all-new Honda Civic-based model that was launched the following year. The 1995 Rover 400 was a more substantial and popular alternative to other large family cars than its successor was, offering impressive equipment levels, but a relative shortage of interior space because it was nearer in size to cars in the next category down. The Rover 400 was facelifted in 1999 to become the Rover 45, and at the same time the estate version of the original 400 was dropped.

Rover Metro/Rover 100Edit

Main article: Rover Metro

May 1990 saw Rover give the decade-old Metro a major reworking, which most notably included internal and external restyling, as well as new 1.1 and 1.4 K-Series petrol engines. The new Metro offered some of the best standards of specification in any supermini at the time,[citation (source) needed] and it sold well until being replaced by the Rover 100 (essentially another update of the original 1980 design) in late 1994. The Rover 100 remained in production for three years, selling reasonably well, until it was discontinued after a dismal crash test performance that saw demand fall dramatically.

Rover 600 seriesEdit

Main article: Rover 600 Series
Rover 620ti

Rover 620ti

Rover entered the compact executive market in March 1993 with its 600 range. Sold as a four-door saloon, the 600 was based on the Honda Accord but used Rover engines as well as Honda engines (Honda used Rover's diesel engine in their european Accord) and had a classier interior. It was very popular in the compact executive market, but could not match the ever-popular BMW 3 Series.

Land RoverEdit

The Land Rover arm of the Rover Group expanded dramatically after the late 1980s. The Ninety/One Ten models received minor equipment and driveline upgrades and sales began to improve after a severe and near-terminal decline in the early part of the decade. The Range Rover enjoyed increased sales following its repositioning as a luxury vehicle, with higher equipment levels and options such as an automatic transmission and a diesel engine option being offered for the first time. The successful Discovery 'family' 4x4 was launched in 1989 and became Europe's top-selling 4x4 within 18 months. The Discovery brought with it an advanced diesel engine, which was soon fitted to the other models in the range. This period saw Land Rover rationalise its operations, closing down satellite factories and increasing parts-sharing between models (axles, transmissions and engines were all shared, and the Discovery used the same chassis and many body panels as the Range Rover. The Ninety/One Ten range was fitted with the new diesel engine and renamed the Defender in 1990. An all-new Range Rover was launched in 1994, together with an improved Discovery which maintained high sales. A fourth model, the 'mini-SUV' Freelander was introduced in 1998 and replaced the Discovery as Europe's best-selling 4x4 vehicle.

MGEdit

The MG badge-engineering project (first implemented by Austin Rover in 1982) was ended in 1991 despite some reasonable success for its Maestro and Montego ranges (the MG Metro had been discontinued after the facelift in 1990). The MG badge was revived in 1992 on the RV8 - an updated MGB which made use of a 3.5 V8 Range Rover power unit, but lacked modern refinements that were expected in similarly-priced sports car of its era. The car didn't sell as strongly as earlier MG sports car, and production ended by 1995.

The "real" rebirth of MG sports cars occurred in 1995, when the MG F was launched. Powered by a 1.8 16-valve mid-mounted engine, it was an instant hit with buyers thanks to its distinctive styling and excellent ride and handling. It was a huge success in the roadster renaissance of the late 1990s, despite some buyers being let down by build quality and reliability issues.

PreservationEdit

The Rover Groups models are not true Classic cars in most peoples definition but some models have a enthusiastic following and examples now feature at some Classic vehicle shows.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Alan Pilkington, Transforming Rover, Renewal against the Odds, 1981-94, (1996), Bristol Academic Press, Bristol, pp.199, ISBN 0951376233
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "1994: MPs condemn sale of Rover", BBC News, BBC (1994-02-01). Retrieved on 2008-03-19. 
  3. Adams, Keith (2008-09-20). "Company timeline". AROnline. Retrieved on 2009-03-30.
  4. "Rover's Revenge", BBC (2000-05-15 accessdate=2007-04-30). 

External linksEdit

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