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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK

Business: The Company File

Rover jobs under threat

Rover has trouble shifting its stock, and this is hitting production

The UK car manufacturer Rover will close part of its plant in Swindon, and union officials confirm that up to 500 staff could be made redundant.

Rover wants to close the tool room at the factory, as German parent company BMW thinks it is cheaper to switch the work to its factories in Germany.

Some of the staff who lose their jobs may be offered the chance to relocate.

Over 3,000 workers are employed at the Swindon plant, which makes body panels for the company's troubled Longbridge factory.

Longbridge is among Europe's least productive car plants.

Sales disaster

The latest sales figures confirm the extent or Rover's troubles. Between January and April 1999, sales for the whole Rover group plummeted more than 27%.

Rover cars are just not selling. The company recently held a "spring sale" in a desperate attempt to shift stock.

The poor group results come despite a strong sales of four-wheel drive Land Rover vehicles.

Land Rover success

Land Rover sales worldwide rose 30% in the first four months of 1999, totalling 56,633 cars.

The fastest growing market were the United Sates, were sales zoomed 53% - albeit it from a very low level.

Much of the overseas success of Land Rover was due to the new Freelander model, which is now the best-selling 4x4 vehicle in Europe.

"We are hoping that the remaining two thirds of this year will be as good as the first four months," said Peter Kinnaird, Land Rover's UK managing director.

BMW recently announced it was preparing a tough restructuring programme for its subsidiary.

Chairman Joachim Milberg told shareholders that Rover was finding trading difficult because of the strong pound.

However, the company - which has already invested several billion pounds in Rover's operations - continues to have big plans for the group.

Earlier this week, Rover chairman Werner Sämann was quoted in a German car magazine as suggesting that the company had the long-term target of doubling its production to around one million cars.

Swindon has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, for a large town or city, with only 2.2% of the workforce out of a job.

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Rover Group (corporate site)


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