Where the axe may fall

Thousands of workers were today waiting to hear their fate as further details were expected about the £2 billion sell-off of the Rover motor company.

It was hoped unanswered questions over the future of Rover factories would be resolved during announcements today by BMW and the company that is taking Rover off its hands, little-known venture company Alchemy.

Alchemy has confirmed it is to take over much of Rover, and will call the new business the MG Car Company.

But question marks remain over other parts of the Rover empire. Here is the current state of play at the factories:

LONGBRIDGE, BIRMINGHAM:

Future: being sold to Alchemy.

Keeping: the Rover 25, the Rover 45, the MGF sports car and the old Mini.

Losing: the new Mini.

The Rover 25 replaced the Rover 200 and went into production at the plant last autumn and on sale last November.

The 45 went on sale in January this year, as the replacement for the Rover 400.

Since 1995, Longbridge has also produced the MGF sports car - a revival of the MG that proved so popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

The old Mini will continue to be built at Longbridge until production ceases, as was always planned, in a few months.

The new Mini was to go into production later this year and have its world debut at the Birmingham Motor Show in October. Now, it will instead be built at Cowley. Longbridge will also lose the investments at the plant which had been promised along with the Mini.

Jon Moulton, of Alchemy, said Longbridge, which employs 9,000 people, would be "reduced in size", adding he expected to make the plant profitable and then sell it again in five or six years.

Union leader Tony Woodley, of the TGWU, said unions had no confidence in Alchemy's ability to continue production of Rovers and MGs at Longbridge.

SWINDON, WILTS:

Future: uncertain.

Rover's Swindon factory makes car parts for other Rover factories and employs 2,500 people. Mention of its fate was conspicuously absent from BMW's announcement, fuelling speculation that it is to be sold to another company. The Mayflower Corporation, a Buckinghamshire vehicle component maker, has refused to deny that it is planning to make BMW an offer.

SOLIHULL, WEST MIDLANDS:

Future: Ford is favourite to snap up the Land Rover part of Rover's business.

The Solihull plant, employing 9,500 people, currently makes four types of Land Rover: the Range Rover, Land Rover, Freelander and Discovery.

Land Rover is the jewel in the crown of the Rover empire. Ford UK neither confirmed nor denied the American-owned company was about to take over Land Rover, fuelling speculation they are in the frame. BMW have made no official mention of Land Rover

Buying Land Rover, a well-respected part of the Rover business, would fit in well with the overall plans of Ford, which has no great presence in the off-road vehicle sector of the UK market.

COWLEY, OXFORD:

Future: retained by BMW.

Keeping: the Rover 75.

Gaining: the new Mini.

BMW will continue to make, for Alchemy, the Rover 75 model at Cowley, which employs 3,500 people.

The Oxford plant also gets to make the new Mini, which had been due to go into production at Longbridge later this year.

HAMS HALL, WEST MIDLANDS:

Future: Stays with BMW.

The new £400 million engine plant is due to be completed and enter operation as planned towards the end of this year. It will make engines for BMW vehicles.

Comments