Motoring: Gavin Green's Column

Gavin Green

Rover may be going through difficulties but the extraordinary fact is that it has taken German owners to embolden the company to design and engineer truly British cars again

BLAME THE Germans! Blame the pound! Blame poor productivity! Blame the Brummies! And, for all I know, El Nino may have been cited as the cause of the recent troubles at poor old Rover. (After all, it is being blamed for just about everything else.)

Only two months ago, the company seemed on the verge of transformation. After years of low investment and dreadful cars, BMW's deutschmarks and managers were clearly making a difference to Rover, one-time dog of the European car industry. As proof, it announced that 1,000 new jobs would be created to build a crucial new luxury model, the 75, which makes its debut at this October's Birmingham Show. That NEC extravaganza was to be the final confirmation of Rover's triumphant return to the big time.

But now, after last week's volte-face - 1,500 jobs are to go, as well as the 1,000 new jobs that were planned - Rover looks to be barking mad again, a company with about as much long-term strategic thinking as a stray dog searching for scraps.

No doubt the pound is overvalued and that has hurt Rover. No doubt the company's productivity is poor, albeit improving. And no doubt BMW has had a much harder job of trying to sort out the British motor industry's biggest basket case than it originally thought, when it sailed in, on a wave of expansionary nostalgic (Bring back Austin-Healey! Bring back Riley! Rule Britannia!) incited by its Anglophile chief Bernd Pischetsrieder, who is, after all the nephew of the inventor of the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis.

After four years of faltering progress, reality has finally hit BMW.

But there is little doubt that BMW has done a good job. Apart from massive investment in new technical facilities, it has given the company priceless managerial support - not least from Rover's BMW-installed chairman, Walter Hasselkus, vilified by The Sun but in fact the best boss Rover has had for decades.

Just as important, BMW is funding a crucially important range of new models, to replace the tinselled but tardy old-school Hondas which currently masquerade as a model range for an allegedly "prestige" manufacturer. More than anywhere else, that is where the blame should be laid for Rover's current woes. It's the cars wot dun it. Rover has the worst cars of any major European manufacturer.

Land Rover and MG are doing OK (in fact, the Freelander and the MGF are both seriously good things). It is the Rover saloons - all based on old Hondas - that are causing the grief. They are pretentious, overpriced, and about as authentically British as a sumo wrestler with a Union Flag painted on his belly. BMW of course knows this. It is just that, until recently, Rover did not have the resources to replace them.

Now, thanks to BMW, it has. The new 75, to be shown at the Birmingham Show before sales begin next March, replaces both the 600 and the 800. It is a "clean-sheet" car, designed and engineered in Britain. Its greatest quality appears to be its overt Britishness. It is easily the most British Rover since the ministerial Rovers of the Sixties. In fact, it takes some of its styling cues from the old P4 and P5 models, cars which were curvaceous, quite upright, genteel in their manners, and roomy and beautifully finished inside. Prices start from about pounds 18,000 and there is a choice of four- cylinder and V6 engines, all British made. Extraordinary that it has taken German owners to embolden Rover to design and engineer truly British cars again.

I haven't driven the still-secret 75 yet (an old model name, incidentally, which dates back to 1948). But it is very likely to be the best Rover saloon in generations. What a shame that it is still a couple of months away from view. It would instantly make people feel better about Rover again. Until the plaudits start in October, the usual suspects will just have to keep taking the blame.

News
people
Sport
Yaya Sanogo celebrates scoring the opening goal with Arsenal's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
champions leagueLive: All the latest from the Emirates and Bulgaria, where Liverpool face Ludogorets
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
News
CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi has been charged with sexual assault
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

    Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

    Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

    £25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

    Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

    £30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital