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Thursday, February 11, 1999 Published at 12:10 GMT

Business: The Company File

Spring sale at Rover

Rover says it is not worried by a slump in sales

The troubled Rover car company has announced price cuts of up to 16% on some models.

The company said a third of its existing Rover 200 and 400 ranges will see discounts averaging 9.5% during March. The sale coincides with the release of the 'T' series registration plates in the UK.

A Rover spokesman has denied the Spring sale has been prompted by poor sales figures in recent months and ongoing losses on the balance sheet.

The company announced December sales numbers last week showing a 45% slump on the same month in 1997. Its share of the UK market slipped to just 4%.

Clearing the decks

It says the figures reflect a lull between the phasing out of some models and the launch of new ones in 1999.

The company adds the sale will help clear the decks for new 200 and 400 models in coming months.

Over the last year, Rover has wound down production of the high-selling Rover 100, the 200 Cabrolet and Coupe and the 400 Tourer.

The new medium-sized R75 model, the next big release and dubbed by industry analysts as the company's 'last-chance saloon', is not due for delivery until June.

Rover has been a loss-making enterprise for BMW since it bought the company in 1994, resulting in massive restructuring and job losses at the Midlands' Longbridge plant and a boardroom shake-up in Munich.

New models from BMW

Meanwhile, a German newspaper report suggests new BMW chairman Joachim Milberg has plans for a new range of small cars, possibly to be built at Longbridge.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports deputy chairman Manfred Schoch as saying UK Government assistance would be critical in the company's decision over where to build.

He is also reported to have said that Rover's components purchasing would be overhauled with more parts being bought from low-cost European manufacturers.

Such a move could be a blow to some of the tens of thousands of UK workers employed at rover suppliers in the West Midlands.

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