But this week managing director Jim MacDonald told Fleet NewsNet: 'I can state categorically we don't have anything like 40,000 cars stockpiled.' He admitted there was a supply of used cars in stock, but he refused to divulge numbers.
In December, Rover's former chairman Walter Hasselkus blamed the manufacturer's poor performance partly on the ultra-competitiveness of the UK fleet market, where he said some car makers were offering discounts of 40-50%. Rover has been unable to compete with such cost-cutting, but has been involved in a number of buy-back deals to protect the marque's residual values, only for the bottom to fall out of the nearly-new car market.
Confirmation that Rover is having trouble in selling 'used' product came in the financial results of dealer group Lookers which said its Rover outlets had: 'endured a particularly difficult year, with too much stock chasing too few customers'. The Rover 400 had a tough 1998, despite a record UK fleet market, seeing its year-on-year fleet sales fall 12.5% to 33,828, but the manufacturer denied it was about to kick-start demand by realigning the car.