Rover plans to go it alone if talks on new car model fail

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The Independent Online

Rover, the beleaguered car manufacturer, said yesterday that it could go it alone in developing a new car model, although it remained in talks with a another car company to jointly produce the platform, which will form the base for its next mid-sized models.

Rover, the beleaguered car manufacturer, said yesterday that it could go it alone in developing a new car model, although it remained in talks with a another car company to jointly produce the platform, which will form the base for its next mid-sized models.

The company dismissed reports that its potential partner - thought to be Proton of Malaysia - had walked away from talks. The company added that it could develop the model itself, if it could not sign a deal with another car maker for a joint project.

Rover must produce a new platform by 2004 to replace the current one used for its small and mid-sized Rover 25 and 45 models. A new platform will cost around £400m to develop and this expense would be shared with any partner.

Gordon Poynter, director of public affairs at Rover, said: "Talks are progressing with a major world player over collaboration, which remains our preferred option."

Rover has said that it needs a deal to start development of the new platform by May next year.

Mr Poynter said: "If collaboration does not work out, we have a do-able and viable alternative. We could develop it in-house instead, using the existing Rover 75 platform, which is only one-and-a-half years old. We could deliver a medium-sized car from it."

BMW, the German car company that owned Rover until it was sold to a consortium led by John Towers in May, spent some £800m developing the platform for the top-of-the-range Rover 75.

Mr Poynter did not specify how much it would cost to re-engineer an existing car platform, although he said it would clearly be cheaper than producing one from scratch. Rover is thought to have a £550m good-bye gift from BMW, which it could use to develop the new platform alone.

Rover also dismissed a report that suggested it was seeking a deal with one of its suppliers, Mayflower, to jointly develop future models.

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