BY ANTONY HOPKER
The Phoenix Consortium which yesterday safeguarded thousands of jobs when it bought Rover, is believed to have held talks with Honda over a possible link.
And executives working for the group have not ruled out links with any other companies to help Rover survive in the cut-throat car world. Rover was returned to British hands yesterday when Phoenix signed a contract to buy the firm for £10 from BMW.
It will receive a £500 million loan from the German giants to help it get going, and has £200 million backing from an American bank.
Former Rover executive John Towers wants to return the company to profit within two years. He said that BMW had tried to turn Rover into a premier brand in a similar way to the transformation at BMW 35 years ago.
Talks with Honda are believed to have taken place over sharing resources for further development. Rover is a tiny player on the world stage, and it costs hundreds of millions of pounds to design, produce and promote new models.
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers joined union officials, workers, business leaders and car dealers in welcoming the outcome. And West Midlands MEP Liz Lynne, who urged BMW to listen to the Phoenix Consortium’s plans, also backed the deal.
She said: “It has been a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride between hope and despair these last few weeks.
“This is the best possible outcome both for the tens of thousands of workers whose jobs are now safe at least for the medium term, and for the economic health of the region’s manufacturing and engineering heartland. I am under no illusions – I know there will still have to be some redundancies. Rover still faces a battle to complete the task of modernisation begun under BMW – but it now produces very high quality cars and has been given a great chance to forge a long term strategy for success.”
She also paid tribute to the ‘inspiring leadership’ of John Hemming, the Birmingham businessman and Liberal Democrat council group leader who founded the Phoenix consortium and played a key role in securing the deal with BMW.
She said: “John Hemming never wavered in his belief that there was a better future for Rover than that proposed by Alchemy. The Phoenix proposal is based on sound business principles, not sentiment. It is possible Rover will be looking for aid, not as subsidy but to support internal restructuring and modernisation.
“It will be very important that the European Commission does not delay a decision on ratifying such plans as they did under BMW. I shall be making every effort to ensure clarity and speed in decision-making.”