The way forward for the Rover brand
I guess that AROnline’s regular readers already know that I’m a BL lover. I really should join BL-coholics Anonymous, but that’s beside the point. The car that first sparked my love of old motors was a Rover SD1 V8 which my father owned from my birth until when I was 5. This is, I’m sure, the car that also helped focus my love of cars mainly upon BL.
Back when the SD1 was current, Rover was still seen as a premium brand. Since the days of the P4, Rover had been innovative, unusual and forward thinking. However, from 1991 (the launch of the R17 800) onwards, the company started to embark upon gaining a slightly tweedy and British image, reinforced by lots of chrome and tree and even bits of cow in the high spec models.
Rovers became cars for the elderly – that remained Rover’s niche until production came to an end in 2005. The Rover brand was the British BMW of its day until the year of my birth and, following that, it sought to carve a different path for itself.
I would partially blame BMW themselves for this – the custodians of Rover from 1994 until 2000 were hardly likely to develop in-house competitors. This is evident with the 75 – whereas the BMW 3 and 5-Series were sporting saloons, the 75 was a waft-mobile. The customers of one company were not thought to have been in the market for the other’s models.
This was owned by BMW and licenced to MG Rover as part of the contract made with Ford when the Jaguar and Land Rover brands were sold to the American giant. The Rover nameplate was also sold to them outright a couple of years ago and then effectively moved to Tata Motors* with their purchase of JLR. This set me thinking.
Jaguar will not be replacing the X-TYPE when it is discontinued later this year. They blame lack of sales for this, but I think the reason is that a small saloon simply does not fit into Jaguar’s new advanced and upmarket range. However, there is no denying that JLR would be sacrificing a huge sector of the market in not providing a BMW 3-Series rival. My thoughts started to form into an idea…
Tata have the Rover nameplate, which was a leading premium brand during it’s heyday. The company pioneered the idea of a large executive hatchback -a genre which is finding favour once again after a ten-year hiatus. JLR needs a car to take on the Audi A4/A5 and BMW 3-Series. They have the accomplished X-TYPE and XF chassis so why not create a new Rover to fill the gap? Looking at it, it isn’t such a silly idea as it might seem at first glance.
It’s entirely possible to create a car which fits stylistically with the Jags, yet retains a Rover identity. The heritage of the SD1 can be used to bolster it in it’s first stages of production. It’s a more fitting use of the name than letting it die.
How can we do this? My idea is to do something retro yet modern – combining something with unmistakably classic Rover design values with something modern and chic. I’ve created a couple of quick mock ups, which show this in it’s best light. The exterior is an unmistakably Ian Callum-esque take on the SD1 theme, with the interior being a modernised interpretation.
Hence, we replace the walnut of the SD1 VP with aluminium, we have an LCD computerised dashboard, we retain the two-spoke wheel but incorporate the airbag. The idea would be to use a modified XF floorpan, with 2.5 and 3.0 V6s, the 3.5 V8 previously used only in the X350 XJ8 and the 5.0 supercharged V8 in a hairy one.
Oh, and if you like tractor engines, some sort of diesel would also be available. Tata/JLR, I hope you’re taking note of this idea.
OK, so would this work? There’s only one way to answer that and that is to put it to a public vote. Who, having read this and seen the images, would buy one of these over an Audi A4/5, BMW 3-Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class? Does anyone think that I’m a sentimental nitwit pining for the past? Over to you.
[*Editor’s Note: The IPRs to the Rover marque are, in fact, vested in Land Rover. See the Intellectual Property Office’s website here.]