Fleet News

Unsure future for Rover in Spain

SPANISH Rover and Land Rover dealers have a clear future - but only for the next two years. Beyond 2002, anything could happen.

At the beginning of 2000 there were 79 Rover and Land Rover dealers in Spain. These had all been appointed by Rover España, before BMW Iberica took over the British brand. All of them have two contracts, one as Rover dealers, and the other as Land Rover dealers.

They sold on average more than 36,000 cars a year between them, but this figure was cut by almost one third last year when the two brands accounted for just 17,000 cars and 7,000 sport utility vehicles.

From the beginning of June, Jacques Muller - the former president of Rover España who took early retirement when BMW took control of the company - is once again at the head of the Spanish subsidiary of the Phoenix Consortium.

Muller, a Swiss-born executive, was sent to Spain at the end of the 1970s to close down the Spanish subsidiary of the British Leyland Motor Company that was almost bankrupt.

He found a large dealer network, a relic of Authi, the joint venture between BLMC and some Spanish banks, to produce British cars in Spain.

After just one year, Muller convinced the management of BLMC to stay in the Spanish market, increasing its range with some products from Innocenti.

Muller's principal achievement was to change the image of Rover, from the time when the cars arrived covered in rust, to today when Rover represents a quality car. Muller will keep all the dealers until 2002 when their contracts expire. He has also increased sales targets from 17,000 cars to 19,000 this year.

Land Rover dealers will also have their contracts honoured until they expire in 2002, when two possibilities exist. One is to create a Spanish subsidary for Land Rover that would report to Matthew Taylor, sales and marketing director of Land Rover (formerly managing director of Ford Spain until September 1998). The other option is unify the Jaguar dealer network (rather small) with Land Rover.

  • Sergio Piccione is deputy editor — motoring, of Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo. (August 2000)
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