The Rover Group was cobbled together from the remains of British Leyland, the state firm that combined all the mass production carmakers into one in the l960s. The firm was privatised under the Conservatives, and taken over by what was then British Aerospace.
Only four brands survived the decades of upheavals and shake-outs. Rover owner BMW may now break up what remains of the empire. Right now, these plants and products are still part of what was once known as Rover Group.
Oxford produces the Rover 75 and employs 3,500 people. Rover’s new flagship model was launched in spring last year. During 1999 about 56,000 vehicles left the assembly line. The car received favourable write-ups in the motoring press and received a string of awards, but has not chalked up the sales figures BMW had hoped for.
This plant is home to the Range Rover and Landrover brands of four-wheel drive vehicles, and is almost certain to remain a part of BMW Group. The factory produces the whole Landrover range, featuring the rugged Defender, the spacious family-favourite Discovery and the Freelander, which targets the highly popular market of so-called Sports Utility Vehicles.
At the top end is the luxurious Range Rover. Solihull employs 10,000 people who made about 170,000 cars during 1999. The company has seen sales grow dramatically in recent years, especially in the all-important US market, where four-wheel drive cars are as popular as never before.
Better known as Rover’s Longbridge factory, Birmingham has suffered drastic cutbacks of its workforce. Today it has 8,500 workers. Rover’s mass market cars – the Rover 25 and 45 – are made here. Launched in autumn 1999, they replaced the 200 and 400 series of cars.
Other products are the famous Mini, and the MG-F, which relies on the tradition of one of Britain’s best-known brands of sport cars. Last year, Longbridge’s workers built 180,000 vehicles. There are plans to produce a new Mini in Longbridge by 2002.
The 3,000 workers at the Swindon plant produce the body parts for all Rover cars. In addition, the group employs several thousand people at a number of other small plants and offices across the country. But some of the engines come from BMW in Germany.