Fleet News

Shock as Rover chief quits

ROVER Group chief executive John Towers is to leave the company and has resigned from the board with effect from June 1. The shock departure of Towers comes just over two years after the Rover Group was acquired by BMW and follows recent revelations in which Rover revealed it was reducing its dealer network and targeting genuine fleet business rather than fast-cycle sales (Fleet News April 19).

It also comes as Rover begins to establish itself as a worldwide manufacturing force and emerges from one of its busiest launch periods in history following the unveiling of the new 200 and 400 ranges, new 600 variants and a facelift to the 800. However, Rover is under pressure from its German parent to perform and 1996 first quarter sales are fractionally down on 1995 levels at 58,944 (60,171) and fleet sales are down 8.8% year-on-year - largely because of a reduction in daily rental business.

Towers, who plans to pursue his career elsewhere, is also believed to have been unhappy about being chief executive of a company while having to report to German bosses. Seven months ago BMW's research and development chief Wolfgang Reitzle was appointed chairman of Rover. One industry insider told Fleet News: 'He wants to be chief executive in charge on his own rather than reporting to a larger group.'

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