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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Can Phoenix rescue Rover?
The Phoenix consortium has taken control of Rover in a move which workers and Government hope secures the future of the long suffering UK car maker.
The venture capitalists Alchemy Partners believe that the Phoenix proposal is not viable in the long term. Their bid, which collapsed at the last stage, had been to end Rover production and concentrate instead on producing smaller numbers of cars with the MG badge.
Phoenix has succeeded against the odds in winning approval from BMW, but after years of poor sales and huge losses, considerable doubts remain as to whether it will prove able to make Rover profitable.
Will Phoenix be able to turn Rover round, or was Alchemy's smaller scale plan more realistic? Has BMW behaved honourably in agreeing the Phoenix deal? Rover's sales doubled in April - was that a one-off?
Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge, UK
Nobody can imagine how happy I am that Rover is no longer in danger of being closed by BMW. As someone who has been driving Rover cars from the day I received my driving license eight years ago, I was very confident with several makes of Rover. As a German I have to say that the cars made now and in the past are no less attractive and competitive than any other make.
It is a sad but obvious flaw in the British character that its manufacturing industry has consistently failed to receive the support and recognition it obviously deserves. Only when the company has been brought to its knees by, in large part, indifference and lack of support from British consumers, do people then start to sit up and say that it's a shame and that BMW have behaved disgracefully. I nevertheless hope that John Towers succeeds where former management at Rover has clearly failed - to continue to produce and successfully market a thoroughly decent range of cars.
Ben Green, England
I really think the problem with Rover is the fact their model range is not as desirable as many people think. Rover just cannot compete with the several billion Euros Volkswagen has spent to upgrade its own plants, plus the plants of its SEAT and Skoda subsidiaries. For example, is there any Rover assembly line that can compare to the state-of-the-art factory Skoda recently opened to build the much-liked new Skoda Fabia, perhaps the new benchmark for the "supermini" class of cars all over the Europe?
I find it intriguing that most of the negative comments come from the British people here. Why don't you all give the company a chance? The cars are great and the pricing is now sensible. You all seem to be determined to write this venture off before it has even started. Give some support. I test drove various small cars recently and the 25 came out the best of the bunch by a long way - have faith!
Has it occurred to anyone that the way BMW has dealt with Rover could be merely to remove a competitor from an overcrowded market ?
It is about time that the British public bought a British car, instead of kowtowing to the French or Italians buying their dodgy rustbuckets. Save Britain's Manufacturing Industry!
Why does everyone think that business owes communities anything? Business is in business to make profit not to employ the community. I am so sick and tired of the British whining.
Phoenix will do the same as Alchemy - just take a little longer. BMW bowing to political pressure paid Alchemy $5 million to walk away from the table so as to allow this "deal" to go through - in less than a year John Towers will be looking to sell off anything and everything.
It's easy to say the name Rover stands for bad quality, but this is rubbish, I own a 200 myself for more then 2 years now, and have absolutely no problems with it whatsoever, and remember Skoda? Look at modern day Skodas, they look good, the quality is good, and they even sell good, so there's not so much in a name as you may believe!
Congratulations PHEONIX thank god some British people want this great name to continue, unlike most of the moaning euro lovers writing in this column. Would Britain ever have been so great in the past without taking chances - NO.
I am cautiously optimistic about Rover's future. If it can sign a deal with another volume producer such as Honda or VW the future could be positive. Under the Honda regime Rover was in reasonable shape. I for one thought that the Rover 200 was far superior to the Ford Escort. We should try and save Rover and our strong manufacturing base. It is all well and good to be employed in high technology industries but 40,000 people in Birmingham can't all make lasers.
Give Rover a chance! Too many of the comments on this page refer to the past. Why not make a point of test driving a new Rover before choosing your next car? If you don't like it, fair enough, buy something else!
Do not complain about the demise of the UK manufacturing base if you are not prepared to consider its products.
It was a major disaster when BMW took over in 94, they just did not understand the importance of our relationship with Honda and left us leaderless for to long. I hope Honda can forgive us and that we can now begin a new and positive relationship again on new joint ventures.
It is good for Rover that John Towers is an engineer, all successful car company's are run by engineers, for to long in the past Rover was run by finance guys and that has kept Rover close to extinction.
Alan Pitts, New Zealand
I believe JT can do it, he had it making profit before he knows what to do. A change of name will help, but the Rover name can still be worked to succeed. I think people see Rover as a boring name and image.
Hugh Scott, Northern Ireland
Richard Green, UK
At last, here is a man that Rover can put real trust in. John Towers will get all the support he now needs from his Rover work force although, the redundancies may see all the wrong people leave. The Rover range is very impressive but plagued by all the controversy over the last couple of years and very bad marketing strategy, has had a large part to blame in bad sales. Let's hope the faith seen in recent sales continues to grow and grow giving Rover the credit is so richly deserves.
I sincerely hope that the involvement of an American bank will signal a more American approach to financing Rover (New Rover?). British banks demand preposterous returns and ludicrously short payback periods. The Yanks do it better.
Rover's days are numbered. If BMW couldn't turn the company around no one will be able to. Let's cut to the chase. British manufacturing since the end of WW II has been a disaster.
Also for exports Rover has a bad deal with the overrated pound. Also with all this negative publicity I do not see anyone on the mainland queue up for a new Rover. Maybe BMW was not so dumb to really give this plant away. I hope that Rover will survive, but I give it 20% chance of success.
Han de Min, Netherlands (now UK)
The ink is hardly dry on the agreement between BMW and Phoenix and already doubts are being cast as to whether Rover is or is not going to be viable. If France, Germany, Spain and Italy, of the western European countries, can each support a car manufacturing industry why do all the so-called experts and business analysts
(who probably drive Mercs and BMWs anyway) think that the UK cannot do something similar.
From what I have heard, Phoenix plans to continue making the same cars at the plant that people are not buying - surely this is just asking for trouble.
Also, the news reports have been showing people cheering and saying what a wonderful event has occurred, but they forget that 1000 people lost their jobs, spare a thought for them as well.
Congratulations to Phoenix! I'm driving a 45 for two months now, after having two 400 types. It's the car that looks different than all other cars! And it's a great drive. I would like to say; buy a Rover, because it has its looks and there's nothing wrong with it! Buyers wake up, think different!
I too wish Rover and Phoenix every success. What is needed now is for people to buy Rover cars. Whether or not these cars are good or bad seems to be a matter of opinion, or even prejudice. I bought a Rover 25 last month and am truly delighted with it. Let's hope Rover can get their marketing right this time.
Phoenix should drop the Rover name and replace it with the Triumph brand. This brand already has a good image thanks to the motorcycles. And if they want a more downmarket brand name, why not invent one? "Phoenix" is apt in more ways than one!
Ed Bayley, USA (English)
Phoenix needs the support of the British people, because judging from the UK television dramas that we see out here, they're buying Saabs and BMWs. Let's hope Phoenix can put to rest the terrible reputation British cars has for poor building quality. I wish them well.
Martin Bentley, UK
I wish the new Rover company well.
What an indictment of the British financial community that they looked the other way and allowed an American bank to offer the support Phoenix required to do the deal. It is no surprise that manufacturing is in such decline in the UK with this short term/anti manufacturing attitude.
I wish nothing but good luck to the many people employed at Rover, but supporting an ailing car company in what is a market with over capacity is surely a recipe for disaster. In comparison with other makes of car, the Rover has an image problem. Alan A, UK
Rover dear Rover. It is sad but the advertising was always wrong pitching their cars against bigger and more spacious rivals. I had a Rover 600 company car and actually enjoyed driving it. I really do not know how you shake off the image of the old British gentleman with a pipe but there's got to be some people who can spin some decent stuff like they have done for the Labour party!
It also needs to secure the company's future success by focusing on new models to replace the outdated 25 and 45 ranges.
Simon Ward, UK
Rover can succeed and compete with the top brands only if they begin to produce a range of cars which have top built quality and the looks to go with it, the very reason German cars are successful. Start by redesigning the after thought Rover 75 front grill, which looks as if it's just been slapped on, discontinue the remaining ranges and create another two models to which would realistically compete for example with the 3 and 5 series. As is Jaguars present strategy. The name and price is irrelevant, people would buy these not only in Britain but overseas. Back to the drawing board boys!
One of the biggest obstacles to buying a Rover car is the name. Regardless of how good their cars are now, to buy a Rover is to buy into a history of poor quality, poor workmanship, industrial unrest and everything that is bad with British manufacturing. I wish Phoenix well in their attempt to revitalise the company, but as well as improving car quality I think that a change of name is essential.
John Harris Lindsay, Australia
Phoenix are merely drawing out the decline of Rover. To increase sales, Rover is, and will playing on the fact that the marque is British to pull in British consumers. However, how can the British consumer be expected to invest £10k or more on a 'patriot cause', be the actual product unsatisfactory!
Rover will struggle on for another eighteen months (until after the next election); then it will shut, and the factory shut down to be replaced with "Barratt" type houses and retail sheds. The latest rescue is merely a stitch up to secure west midlands marginal constituencies.
Does this mean Rover is a British car company? If so I will be buying one, surely that's good?
I'm from the West Midlands and am always sad to see the region suffer relatively badly at each economic slow down. Why does this happen? Because of the reliance on heavy engineering and car manufacturing with low profit margins. There is no money to be made now in assembling cars in developed countries. I understand the current glee of the workers and wish them well, but I cannot see Rover having the cash to develop new models while keeping to the current discounted prices. Better to begin now the job of revitalising the West Midlands as a centre for 21st century knowledge-based products and services.
Mark Halliburton, United Kingdom
I too wish Phoenix well, but if they are to succeed they need to completely rethink Rover's marketing strategy. Their recent efforts have been hopelessly confused; they just don't seem to be able to decide what their brand values are. I for one believe they should unashamedly go after more mature buyers. In our ageing society it is the only growth market.
Sorry chaps, it's jam today, tears tomorrow- Phoenix is just delaying the inevitable closure.
Since when have a British company been able to compete successfully over the long term in the overseas market place?
You have to be cruel to be kind, etc.
I sympathise with the employees of Rover but I cannot see this succeeding in the long term. What magic capabilities do Phoenix have ? In around 12-18 months we will be back to where we are today. I cannot see how Phoenix will turn Rover around if BMW cannot. Look around on the roads, ask yourself why Rover is suffering collapse. It is because of systematic underinvestment in manufacturing process and technology hence a high cost base. And lets face it why are there fields of unsold Rovers - because of poor brand image, dated models and very high prices. Let Rover die and invest the money into re-generating the West Midlands
I wish Phoenix/Rover every success. I cringe when I read all the British negative comments. Do not throw away your remaining manufacturing base. Stop criticising everything and anything British and support British-made goods and products. If the quality of Rover was poor in the past, it is not, by any standards, true today and thus the marque deserves a chance to survive.
If Rover reduce prices, then I am sure people will but their cars. It's better to sell cheaper cars than none at all.
UK manufacturing companies are taking their means of production overseas because of the high value of the pound. Only yesterday, Gordon Brown said the government will not intervene to reduce the value of the pound. Rover is a small company trying to compete with the likes of Ford and Volkswagen, who can move their manufacturing capability to where the labour costs are low and the currency market works to their advantage. I wish everybody at Rover the best of luck, they are going to need it.
Congratulations to Phoenix - at long last Rover is back in British hands again. They desperately now need to push ahead with plans for a 75 Estate, because Rover has been lacking a decent family-sized estate for many years - the last one was the Montego!
Rover/British Leyland has had problems since the 1970s. Surely it was time to just let it die. Hasn't the British Government spent enough money on it? I believe that the market is too small without exports, of which there are few.
If Phoenix get their pricing right they will sell cars. I have just bought an imported Freelander for £6k less than dealer prices!
It is up to the British people whether Rover are a success or not, quite simply they either buy Rover or other makes built in Britain or buy imported cars. There are an awful lot of imported cars on our roads and a good percentage of them are German.
Ian Hooker, England
I wish Phoenix all the success with Rover.
I genuinely believe that the current Rover line up as many dealers and motoring journalists say is their best yet and is able to compete with the current competition.
Andy Turtle, UK
I completely sympathise with the Rover situation especially in the West Midlands and I do admire Phoenix for attempting to do something but unfortunately I just cannot see it succeeding in the long term.
Rover may have experienced a surge in sales in the last month but this will not last forever - at the end of the day people will always go for the best deal and the most sought after cars. I hope it works but I think this is merely a short-term expensive solution.
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