MICHAEL HARRISON, Industrial Editor
Thursday, 27 January 1994
BRITAIN’S biggest car maker, the Rover Group, yesterday demonstrated the extent of its recovery by announcing a 9 per cent rise in worldwide sales last year. The British Aerospace subsidiary sold 448,000 Rover cars, Land- Rovers and Range Rovers – 37,000 up on 1992. The increase helps explain Rover’s financial turnaround last year when it is estimated to have made profits of pounds 40m- pounds 50m compared with a pounds 49m loss in 1992.
The star performer was Land- Rover, with sales of 73,527, the highest in its 46-year history. The Discovery accounted for half the Land-Rover total and was the main factor behind sales increases of 122 per cent in Japan and Australia. Land-Rover production is likely to reach 80,000 this year with sales to the US expected to double to 10,000 following the launch of the Discovery there in April.
Sales of Rover cars rose 10 per cent to 356,450. It also sold 19,000 Longbridge-built Concertos to its partner company, Honda of Japan. The improvement in Rover’s performance is bound to fuel speculation about a possible sale of the business by BAe – either to a trade buyer or in the form of a flotation.
Separately, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to increase the proportion of cars built abroad from 2 to 10 per cent. Helmet Werner, chairman, said it was becoming increasingly important to site production facilities nearer the company’s markets. Mercedes would achieve the increase in overseas production by setting up new plants or entering joint ventures.
He was speaking as Mercedes announced a 3 per cent drop in sales last year to DM64.6bn ( pounds 24.9bn). The group plans to shed 8,000 more jobs this year after 11,000 in 1993.
View from City Road: Rover’s no longer a dog, but who would buy?