Fleet News

Rover courts UK fleet chiefs with message of reassurance

ROVER broke its silence to the fleet industry at a conference at the Longbridge car plant, where key fleet decision-makers were assembled by the manufacturer's boss John Towers for a confidence- building presentation. Rover's new chairman and leading members of the newly-created management team addressed about 300 fleet managers, leasing company and supplier representatives at Longbridge's conference centre for an event billed as: 'The Facts and the Future'.

With Towers were deputy chairman Nick Stephenson, product design director Peter Stevens, sales and marketing director John Parkinson, aftersales director Jim Lynch and fleet sales director Angus Gray.

The press were excluded from the recent meeting, but a spokesman revealed that Gray impressed upon the audience 'the viability of Rover in all sectors of fleet for the long term, based on making a profit rather than achieving bulk sales, which is a sentiment we've expressed before'.

'And while we believe the MG brand has been undervalued and will seek to change that, Rover-badged cars will continue to account for 70% of our volume,' said the spokesman.

Total Rover sales, said Towers, would reach 200,000 worldwide by the end of this year, dip to about 185,000 in 2001 because of the run-out of the Mini, return to 200,000, as the Rover 75 estate establishes itself in 2002 and then - thanks to the introduction of new models - reach 220,000 by year-end 2003.

Rover also revealed the range-topping models in the 25, 45 and 75 line-ups will be re-badged as MGs and with it would come the 'sporty' design and engineering elements synonymous with the sports car brand, such as the close-knit grille, lights, spoiler, fat tyres and widened wheel arches, across the brand's range. The cars would also have stiffer, lowered suspension and re-tuned engines with power boosted by at least 50bhp.

There will also be some 'outrageous' modifications made to the MGF, thanks to input from Lola to give the cars a more youthful appeal. MG dealerships, of which there are about 80 in the UK, are also to be absorbed into the Rover dealer network in the next 12 months.

Residual value experts CAP Motor Research and Glass's Information Services are poles apart in their impressions of Rover's heart-to-heart talks at Longbridge - and of the long-term future of the brand's residual values.

Glass's Guide is reporting residual value percentages for the 75 increasing from a slump to the mid-20%s of cost new at three-years/60,000-miles during the uncertainty about Rover's future, to mid-30%s now and rising.

But Martin Ward, CAP Motor Research's national research manager, said despite Rover 'pleading' for fleets to reconsider their residual values on Rover, particularly the leasing companies, CAP would not be reacting:'We're neither moving Rover residual values up nor down. Buyers are not confident yet about the company and its products to put them up by the expected 5-10%.'

CAP lists 25 RVs at 30-34% at three-years/60,000-miles, 45 at 26-30% and 75 at 27-32%. Used models of 75 are already highly sought after, with models achieving a 'phenomenal' 80-83% of cost new at closed auctions, according to Glass's.

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