Short shrift from Moulton on his plan for MG Cars

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The Independent Online

Jon Moulton is not your usual motor industry executive, nor will his MG Car Company bear much resemblance to what is now known as Rover. As befits his reputation as a venture capitalist in a hurry, yesterday's formal press conference to announce the acquisition of Rover from BMW was a virtuoso performance conducted at break-neck speed.

There were no press releases and no long-winded speeches. Not even any coffee. Instead, there was a free-for-all as the 100 or so journalists gathered at the Royal Society for the Arts in central London fought to ask questions, mostly answered in one sentence and sometimes one word.

What would his new cars be like? "Super." And his management team? "Outstanding." Surely he would need government aid to keep Longbridge afloat? "We neither asked for aid nor was such aid offered."

What sort of profit did he expect from MG Cars and how much would he make out of it? "Substantial and none of your business," he replied. All right then, why would he succeed where the mighty BMW had failed? "They weren't big enough." Sorry? Not big enough to keep Rover as a volume car maker. "We have no intention of trying to compete in the mass market," he said. So what did MG Cars see as its niche? "Sports saloons and desirable smaller cars" - a bit like Lotus, developing models at a cost of "tens of millions" not billions of pounds.

The only time he failed to answer a question with a quick-fire riposte was when it came to the subject of how many Longbridge jobs would be saved. "There are two groups of workers at Longbridge. There are people who will lose their jobs, which we bitterly regret but it is inevitable. There is another group who will have greater opportunities and will not be staring over their shoulders fearing redundancy."

Twenty minutes later it was all over and Mr Moulton strode back to his Covent Garden offices pursued by a phalanx of camera crews. A photographer complained that Mr Moulton had not passed a single Rover car he could be photographed against. No surprise there.

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