Motoring: Failure is not an option

How do you sell a German-financed car on the strength of its traditional British values?

THE ROVER 75. Tens of thousands of British jobs, millions of pounds of investment from the Government and BMW and the livelihood of hundreds of Rover dealers all depend on it. This is the most important new car launch of the 1990s and the last gasp for one of Britain's oldest manufacturers.

If the 75 fails, there will be a domino effect which could leave a gaping hole in the manufacturing heart of the Midlands, the UK economy and British engineering credibility.

Failure isn't an option. Selling the 75 is going to be an important job, so Rover is not leaving anything to chance. When you go into a showroom to enquire about the latest Rover model you won't meet just any old sales executive, but a Rover 75 specialist. I know, because I've been trained to be one.

Well, I don't think any dealer would be mad enough to let me loose in their showroom after sitting a one day course, but Rover have very kindly allowed me to attend a 75 Specialist Workshop. At a conference hotel on the outskirts of Bromsgrove I'm going to find out exactly what a Rover 75 specialist will have to do to convince us to buy the car. Perhaps even more importantly, I will discover exactly who Rover thinks is the typical 75 customer.

It's 9am and I'm in a room with the last few sales staff out of 300 to attend the course. Joe and Frank are from Liverpool, Aidan from a London dealer, Vicki is from Derby and Mike from Hull. Firstly, there is a pep talk from Rover product manager Emma Hill, to make sure we know what the Rover brand is all about.

"Rover stands for comfort, luxury, elegance and style. By contrast BMW is sporty, dynamic and has great handling. The Rover 75 is not a BMW - our customers are not looking for the ultimate driving machine." Ms Hill uses BMW's long-running ad slogan to distance Rover from its German owner. She is open enough to highlight research which shows that non-Rover owners regard the product as overpriced, unreliable, old fashioned and not able to hold its value. Even worse, the drivers all wear flat caps and go for Sunday morning drives in their slippers.

Existing Rover owners, though, turn out to be concerned with comfort, value, and are not obsessed by the image of the car. In brand positioning terms, Rover sees itself between mass-market manufacturers like Ford and Fiat and emergent prestige marques such as Saab and Audi. At the top of the tree, though, are the motor vehicle "royal family", who - much like our own royals - happen to be German: BMW and Mercedes. So it is a tough job, but Geoff Purkis, Rover's dealer-training manager, is quite prepared to do it. He dims the lights, pushes a button, and Rover's brand values video is played.

The most important revelation for me is who exactly Rover believe will buy the 75. Research indicates they will be 35 to 54 years old, in full employment, well educated, well off (but not wealthy), and 30 per cent female.

Prior to attending the course, the impression I had was that if you are not a white, golf-playing, middle-class over-achiever, then the 75 may not be for you. But when I chat to some of the sales people on the course, the orders they had already taken for the car include train drivers and pensioners, so the 75 may well have a wider appeal.

Next is damage limitation time. The 75 should have been launched in March, but there have been many delays. Another video is played. It is brutally honest. A finished 75, which looks pristine, is criticised in minute detail by a quality-control manager. Essentially, the first batch of cars was not up to standard and that standard is the current BMW 5 series.

The amazing thing is the enthusiasm for the 75 amongst the showroom staff, who truly believe it is a great car. Quality is everything to the sales people, from the finish of the car, to the way potential 75 customers will be treated when they walk into a Rover showroom.

By the time that you read this, Rover 75s will have become the subject of a huge advertising campaign, and the British car buyer will be in a position to decide the fate of the car. But whatever happens, it won't be for lack of effort on the part of the 75 specialist.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all failed
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Law Costs

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?