Fleet News

BMW reaffirms Rover commitment - again

BMW reasserted its commitment to Rover and the troubled Longbridge plant at the Geneva Motor Show but warned that time was running out for vital Government grants which would keep the factory open. In a forceful speech, Joachim Milberg, chairman of the board of BMW, admitted that Rover was a 'burden on profits'.

Rover sales were down 25% to 227,000 units last year and in its shareholders' report for 1999, BMW described Rover's performance as 'an unsatisfactory result' and blamed factors such as delays to the launch of the 75. But he added: 'We are as convinced as ever before that there cannot be a strong brand without strong products. We are convinced that there must be an identity of brand and product substance. We know that in the long run the Rover brand will become just as strong and powerful as the Rover 75 already is today.'

As a sign of Rover's secure future, sales figures for the Rover 75 saloon showed 8,000 were sold between launch and the end of last year in the UK. But Milberg's comments were qualified by finance director Dr Helmut Panke, who told Fleet NewsNet that although commitment to Rover was clear, only speedy action by politicians could remove the question mark hanging over Longbridge.

'If, for example, by the Birmingham International Motor Show, there has been no decision, then we will have to reconsider our options,' he said. In a show of support, Stephen Byers, Trade and Industry Secretary, appealed to EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti for a speedy decision on the aid package.

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