Minor happy returns, Morris
BMW could ship in up to 150 senior managers from Germany to turn round troubled Rover. Although prospects are bright at Cowley, with the launch of the R75 and other models in the pipeline, the Longbridge plant in Birmingham faces heavy job losses and possible closure.
As enthusiasts today celebrated the 50th birthday of the Cowley-built Morris Minor, Rover’s owners BMW were said to be planning a “get tough” initiative after four years of frustration. Company sources suggested senior managers and engineers could be brought in from Munich. Meanwhile, Rover management was meeting unions today to discuss job cuts, wages and flexible working at Longbridge.
Rover may gain from £2.5m training cash
ROVER is set to benefit from a £2.5m drive to boost Britain’s motor industry. The Trade and Industry Secretary, Peter Mandelson, announced that an extra £2.5m of Government funds would be used to help train young engineers and build up what he called a “knowledge-driven economy”.
Addressing an audience at the SMMT Industry Forum at the International Motor Show in Birmingham, Mr Mandelson said there had been a “renaissance” in the UK motor industry. But he warned companies they must redouble their efforts to keep up with the pace of change in the industry. His comments follow the threat surrounding the future of Rover’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham amid growing international competition.
Mr Mandelson insisted that the company’s survival rested firmly in the hands of its workforce. He said £2.5m would be injected into the “process improvement master class” on top of £4m already invested. The scheme pulls together expert engineers from the motor industry, including companies like Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen, to develop “a common approach” which can be adopted in the industry to improve all-round productivity.
This common approach is then passed on to young engineers, who will be seconded from the UK industry. Training has been a vital component in Rover’s preparation for the launch of the new Cowley-built Rover 75 luxury saloon next March. All workers, existing and new, undergo a pioneering training scheme which has been borrowed from BMW, which first used it on its new 3 series.
Training is carried out in a purpose-built £500,000 training area set up in the former unit used to build the limited edition MG RV8 sports car. Rover, which had a long relationship with Honda stretching back to the early 1980s, has also introduced ideas from BMW, Nissan UK and Toyota to put into practice on the new car. In addition, senior Rover managers have been seconded to work on assembly lines at Kawasaki in Japan to learn new working practices to introduce on the car.