Rover crisis: Launch hit by board upsets

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The Independent Online
THE TIMING could not be worse. Rover has just launched its new model 75 to the world's press, and now its parent company, BMW, has ditched chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder from the board.

There was a similar example of unfortunate timing at last October's Birmingham Motor Show. Rover unveiled the handsome model 75 just as BMW put the squeeze on Rover's Longbridge plant in Birmingham.

What is a Rover, anyway? It used to stand for something a cut above the rest, but recent Rovers have drawn heavily on Honda underpinnings, and come across as cars created on the cheap. Rovers nowadays are bought by company fleets trying to be visibly British, or by the elderly.

Rovers, despite the cosmetic pretence, feel cheaper, looser and more plasticky, and people think they go wrong a lot, even though that's no longer true.

Their real rivals are cars from Ford and Vauxhall, and in export markets that is how they are perceived.

Plans are in place to change all this, and the 75 is the first stage. If Rover is allowed to move fast, there is still enough residual public awareness of Rover's past values for a viable revival. But if BMW continues its public sabotage, it just isn't going to happen.