Rover borrows from past to launch model that holds key to its future

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The Independent Online
WITH A fanfare written by the rock musician Dave Stewart and performed by Vanessa-Mae and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Rover yesterday launched the car on which its survival may depend.

The Rover 75, a retro-style model that borrows heavily on Rover's heritage, is the first all-British car it has designed and built from scratch in a quarter of a century. It mixes new technology with old-style accessories such as round dials on the dashboard

Priced at between pounds 18,300 and pounds 26,500 for the top-of-the-range 2.5 Connoisseur, Rover hopes to make 140,000 of the new cars a year, three-quarters of which will be for export.

The Royal Philharmonic yesterday gave three live performances of Mr Stewart's composition, "Arrival" on a specially-constructed stage next to Tower Bridge in London with Vanessa-Mae positioned on top of a Rover 75. The horn-section was provided by 75 Rover 75 cars.

Jim Macdonald, managing director of Rover Cars UK, insisted that the hype was justified by the reception the 75 has received. Rover says it has taken 80,000 orders or serious enquiries for the car and anyone walking into a showroom today to buy one will face a three-month waiting list.

BMW, Rover's owner, has invested pounds 700m in the car, which is being built at a new factory at Rover's Cowley works in Oxford.

A pounds 6m television advertising campaign, based around the theme of the reaction created by the Rover 75, began last night.The press launch of the car at last October's Birmingham Motor Show was a public relations disaster, overshadowed by BMW's threat to shut the Longbridge car plant unless the unions agreed to 2,500 job losses and new working practices.

Yesterday, though the sun was shining, the PR was slick and the only thing Rover had to worry about was Mr Stewart's unscripted remarks. Asked if he planned to buy a Rover 75, he replied: "I don't need a car right now."