BMW has revealed that poor performance by its Rover subsidiary, which was hit by the strong pound, kept its overall car sales almost static last year. The German group says it sold 1,180,429 cars in 1999, compared with 1,187,115 in 1998. But within that figure, sales of Rover cars were down 25% at 227,743.
Other car marques registering falling sales were MG, down 18.7% at 11,719 and the Mini, down 27% at 11,695. The two bright spots were the BMW brand itself, where sales rose 7.4% to 751,272 and Land Rover, which saw sales power ahead by 16% to 178,000. Their combined success helped push up the value of sales by 6.6% to £21bn (34.4 billion euro).
The poor showing at Rover – dubbed ‘The English Patient’ by the German media – was reflected in a sharp drop in numbers employed, down 18.8% at 29,884, amid a major round of restructuring. In contrast, BMW’s continued success saw its workforce rise by 2% to 63,785.
In a letter to shareholders, BMW chairman Dr Joachim Milberg said: “Record sales were recorded by BMW Automobiles and Motorcycles, while Land Rover was the strongest-growing brand in the BMW Group. “Unfortunately this success could not be repeated at Rover, which experienced a significant downturn in sales as a result of model policy and market difficulties.”
He said: “More restructuring, together with the further strengthening of the pound, have proved a much greater burden on Rover Automobiles than in the previous year.” BMW said the restructuring programme at Rover would continue.