It will be the ultimate car boot sale, with not just dodgy spares going cheap, but the whole car, boot and all. As BMW walks out on Rover, up to 100,000 brand-new cars are to be flogged off for a song with big discounts for those bulk-buying.
From showrooms and Rover plants in Birmingham and Oxfordshire, the German manufacturer is shedding £1bn worth of unsold cars, ranging from the runaround Rover 25 to the potentially classic 75, flagship model for the doomed relaunch of the old British brand. The 75 was launched only 18 months ago as the saviour of Rover, but it flopped and production has already been cut from 1,750 cars a week to 750.
Professor Werner Samann, the head of Rover, yesterday blamed the relaunch failure on negative publicity surrounding the government's "Rip-Off Britain" campaign about car pricing. And he dismissed suggestions that BMW had misled ministers about its intentions for the company.
Now BMW has been in urgent talks with Alchemy Partners, the investment group buying Rover, and has enlisted the advertising agency M&C Saatchi to help shovel away the unwanted car mountain. The firms intend to sell directly over the internet, with a television campaign at Easter.
Dealers may appreciate the discounts, but many expect massive losses if the cars are dumped on the market. They have already seen a dramatic fall in sales and could sue BMW for compensation for the troubles that have afflicted Rover. There are also no known plans to offer cheap cars to workers at the Longbridge and Cowley plants, whose jobs are threatened by BMW's decision to quit.
Hope may lie with the boot sale brigade. Just as bargain hunters dream of finding a genuine Chippendale among the old deckchairs, those snapping up a bargain Rover may eventually get lucky. "If the Rover brand disappears they'll become classics overnight," said Ian Darby, secretary of the 700-member Rover Owners Club.Reuse content