Fleet News

Battle for Longbridge's future set to enter the final stages

BMW will announce on Tuesday, March 30, whether its financially-stricken Rover subsidiary will build replacements for the ageing 200 and 400 models in the UK. As the battle to save Rover's Longbridge factory - home of the 200 and 400 - enters the final stages it is expected that the Government will put together a package around the £240 million which BMW says it wants to encourage it to invest about £1.7 billion in the plant.

With 14,000 jobs at Longbridge at stake and an estimated 50,000 jobs in the West Midlands hinging on the decision, trade union bosses this week accused the Government of playing poker as it refused to immediately announce a £240 million injection of state aid. Instead it is believed the Government has offered about £100 million, with the remainder coming through rate relief and other public sector agencies in the West Midlands. Hopes are high that the Government's aid package will improve because without it Longbridge is likely to shut.

However, motor industry expert Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at the Cardiff University Business School, believes there has not been enough public support for Rover to persuade the Government it should give BMW the £240 million for its planned £1.7 billion investment in Longbridge. He said the 'catastrophic error' was Rover's fall in market share to below 10% - to 5% - which is an obvious sign of lack of national goodwill. Rather Rover is seen as a '25-year disaster' for the UK.

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