On the move: Rover’s new executive car provides Oxford jobs for Longbridge workers
Rover is creating an additional 800 jobs at its Oxford plant as it moves to full production of a new executive car, the group’s chairman Werner Samann announced yesterday. Most of the posts will be filled by excess staff from the group’s troubled Longbridge plant, however.
Rover is offering relocation packages of up to £8,000 to workers who move to Oxford and help towards travel costs for those who commute. Dr Samann said he expected a number of workers to return to Longbridge after the £1.7bn modernisation of the ageing plant, so there would be an opportunity for completely new recruitment at Rover Oxford in about two years’ time.
A Rover spokesman said: “We have excess people at Longbridge at the moment and this is a way of using those people rather than losing them.” The new Rover 75 executive car, launched at the Birmingham motor show last year and going on sale in Britain in three weeks’ time, will be built at Oxford only. The cars will cost up to £25,630 in Britain. Production is expected to reach 1,600 cars a week by the summer and 2,800 a week by the end of the year. Up to 70% of output is to be exported.
Dr Samann said the new car was the result of a £700m investment programme. “For 87 years there has been car production at Oxford,” he said. “But at no time in the past has there been such a major transformation and such a level of investment as now to support the launch of our latest car.”
Rover spent £300m designing, developing and engineering the Rover 75, and nearly £300m modernising the Oxford plant. “On top of that more than £100m has been invested with suppliers in new tooling and equipment,” Dr Samann said.
However, the transformation of Rover’s Cowley plant in Oxford into a modern facility has been overshadowed over the past six months by uncertainty surrounding the future of Longbridge, the group’s largest car-making operation. In return for £150m of state aid, parent company BMW has agreed in principle to develop and build a replacement for its Rover 200 and 400 models at Longbridge at an estimated cost of £1.7bn.