Fleet News

Rover's fleet future in doubt

FLEET managers are warning Rover that a crisis of confidence over the marque is threatening its future in the fleet market. Their fears will set alarm bells ringing at Rover, where chiefs are reeling from the departure of Bernd Pischetsrieder, the chairman and Rover's 'ally' at parent company BMW.

Pischetsrieder masterminded Rover's purchase five years ago for £800 million and had also backed the investment of billions of pounds in the Longbridge plant. His resignation has thrown into doubt the future of the replacement for the 200/400 model due in 2003. New chairman Professor Joachim Milberg is holding make or break discussions on the future of the model. A final decision is expected in five to six weeks.

BMW is understood to have asked for Government aid in the region of £200 million to keep Longbridge open - but the Government is yet to make any formal commitment. Fleet managers have warned that a replacement 200/400 must be forthcoming to keep the manufacturer's fleet appeal intact. They also set out vital weak points in its line-up that must be corrected to keep or attract their business.

Ian Kelly, group transport manager of John Menzies, which has a 500-strong solus Rover fleet said: 'If the new 200/400 comes to pass and the range is maintained then I am confident in our arrangements with Rover. But we don't have a one-size car fleet and we need a full range and choice in terms of model size.' Peter Wallis, fleet manager of Carlsberg Tetley's 750-strong fleet, said: 'Not having a 200/400 replacement could well destroy the fleet appeal of the range.'

David Morse, transport fleet manager for the National Grid, added that Rover was already damaging the reputation of its 'make-or-break' 75 model by delaying the launch. Neil Whitaker, Abbey National's car scheme manager, said drastic action was needed to restore fleet confidence in the Rover range.

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