THE MODESTO BEE
AUTOMAKER PINS HOPES ON ROVER 800
By Robert McKay, United Press International
British Leyland has officially changed its name and launched a sleek new sedan – perhaps the most important in the automakers troubled 80 year history – in a bid to recapture past glories and profits.
“Really, we see it as our new entry into the American market”, said spokeswoman Jean Denton of the newly named Rover Group, whose last spearhead into the U.S market was the popular but unprofitable MG sportscars. The new flagship, the Rover 800, is a hansomely furnished, executive type sedan built jointly by Britain and Honda of Japan and intended to compete against the likes of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Saab, Volvo and the Ford Granada.
In an extravagant pre-launch promotional campaign, unmatched in recent memory, the automaker flew some 3,500 dealers, fleet buyers and wives, and journalists to Switzerland to test drive the fuel injected cars in the Alps for a week end. In addition, police chiefs throughout Britain were flown to Switzerland to test drive the car, and 60 members of parliament and hundreds of foreign journalists were flown to scenic Northumberland, England, to try the car.
“Last Chance Saloon”, read one London newspaper headline – a depiction of the new cars importance to the company that executives do not dispute.
“In 1980, the launch of the Metro signalled this companies recovery. It was a car for survival. Today, the Rover 800 is equally important,” company executive Ashley Farmer said.
The new British sedan will be officially launched in the United States this January as the “Sterling”.