Fleet News

Rover 'must stay mainstream'

FLEET managers say Rover must launch a four-model line-up of cars which compete head-to-head with Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Renault if the beleaguered manufacturer is to regain its place in the fleet big-league. While fleet managers widely applauded the deal finally agreed between the Government and Rover Group owner BMW designed to safeguard the future of Rover's Longbridge plant they say the £180 million aid package will mean nothing if the ageing 200 and 400 are not replaced by two cars of similar quality and attention to detail evident in the Rover 75.

Rover Group corporate sales director Steve Harris pledged that fleet managers would not be disappointed with the company's product line-up due to be completed in 2002 when all-new replacements for the 200 and 400 join the soon-to-be-launched 75 and all-new Mini, scheduled to go on sale next year. He said: 'The Government investment is great news for British industry, Rover and our growing strength in the UK fleet market. It will enable us to offer a comprehensive range of vehicles covering all major sectors of the corporate market.' Fleet NewsNet understands that the 200 and 400 will be replaced by two cars - likely to be called Rover 35 and Rover 55 - built on a single platform developed specifically to compete against fleet giants like the Astra and Mondeo.

National Grid transport fleet manager David Morse said: 'It is essential the new 200 and 400 are the right product. Their success in fleet depends on whether BMW aims the cars at a niche market like its own models or whether it places them in competition with models like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Vectra.' Ian Kelly, group transport manager of John Menzies, which has a 500-strong solus Rover fleet, said: 'Rover's development programme must include two vehicles to replace the 200 and 400. Rover must have a complete range and the new cars must have the street-cred of the Ford Focus.'

Simon Boggis, national fleet manager of TNT International, said a sneak preview he had been given of Rover's future models laid to rest any doubts about its future in the corporate market. 'We've had a privileged look at new products coming out and Rover is on to a winner,' he said. The existing 200 and 400 will be freshened up later this year and the quality and styling of the Rover 75 is a big giveaway as to what's coming.'

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