Fleet News

MG 75 launch will spice up executive sector

THE spring 2001 launch of MG variants of the Rover 75 will spearhead an attack on the executive fleet market. As the newly renamed MG Rover Group struggles to make its presence felt in the UK fleet market, the manufacturer says it will not undertake fleet business unless it is profitable.

In the first eight months of this year Rover's fleet sales are 14% down year-on-year at 24,312, making it the eighth biggest-selling fleet manufacturer behind the likes of Fiat and Toyota. Meanwhile, none of its cars figure in this year's top 25 best-selling fleet models.

Despite flagging fleet sales - retail sales are significantly up, taking total 2000 new car sales to 72,269 (1999: 67,633) - John Towers, head of the Phoenix Consortium which bought the manufacturer from BMW, is bullish about its future. The benefits, he says, include running Rover from one site, Longbridge, rather than - as BMW did - from Munich. But Towers stressed he is not interested in fleet sales unless they are profitable ones.

The name change - necessary because of the increased importance of the MG brand in the firm's future product portfolio - is expected to see future sales split between MG-badged (25%) and Rover (75%). The new MG variants of the 75 will be announced next spring and will hit production mid-year, with the flagship model spearheading an attack on the executive fleet market and will be what Towers describes as a true 'grunt and groan' machine, with class-leading performance.

And while a diesel MG executive saloon has been ruled out, Towers has pledged that diesel will figure strongly under the Rover brand-name bearing in mind that BMW and Alfa-Romeo have leading-edge diesels in their ranges and Jaguar will soon join the ranks.

Towers is very aware of the task ahead, adding: 'A lot of people have a lot of doubts about our future. There are some saying we have no future at all and there are some people who would like us to fail.'

Added to Rover's woes in the fleet sector can be a market about to welcome an all-new Ford Mondeo, Renault Laguna and replacement Citroen Xantia as well as a heavily facelifted Volkswagen Passat - and he should have every reason to feel haunted. But instead, Towers believes, that despite the long road ahead the MG Rover Company has a bright future.

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