MICHAEL HARRISON, Industrial Editor
Thursday, 10 February 1994
THE GERMAN car manufacturer BMW, which bought Rover last week for £800m, confirmed yesterday that it was also interested in acquiring the luxury car maker Rolls- Royce, the most famous marque left in British hands. Negotiations with Rolls’ parent company, Vickers, the engineering group, about a sale of the business to BMW broke down a year ago after the two sides failed to agree on a price.
But yesterday Bernd Pischetsrieder, chairman of BMW, said that a deal was still possible. In an interview with Carweek magazine, Mr Pischetsrieder said: ‘We have had a lot of discussions with Rolls-Royce in the past. There were a couple of reasons why we didn’t get together, but a deal cannot be ruled out.’
BMW’s first priority would be to focus on Rover, but after that it would consider the ‘next step’. Mr Pischetsrieder also confirmed that production of the Rover Maestro and Montego would end – something Rover had already decided before the takeover – but the company would produce a successor to the 800 series.
Last year Rover made 7,000 Maestros and 15,000 Montegos at its Cowley works in Oxford. However, production is scheduled to cease later this year. Bulgaria is due to begin assembling Maestros later this year at a plant in Varna near the Black Sea at an initial rate of 5,000 a year, while Rover is negotiating to license production of the Montego to the Indian company Sipani. Production is due to reach 15,000 by 1998.
Mr Pischetsrieder said even though the Rover 800 was a competitor to the BMW 5 and 7 series there was an opportunity for it to continue as ‘a genuine British upper-class car’.
A new-look 800 could be relaunched in the US, a market Rover withdrew from three years ago, but it would be based on a BMW platform, meaning that it would have rear-wheel drive.