ROVER AIMS to double production to a million cars a year in the medium term, its new chairman, Werner Saemann, disclosed yesterday. The move follows the decision by Rover’s parent company, BMW of Germany, to invest pounds 1.7bn in modernising the Longbridge plant in Birmingham. The investment is being supported by a pounds 150m subsidy from the Government and is tied to sweeping changes in working practices aimed at closing Rover’s 30 per cent productivity gap with BMW’s German factories.
Output from Rover’s Longbridge, Cowley and Solihull manufacturing plants fell by 4 per cent to 497,574 vehicles last year. But production is set to rise sharply with the launch of new models from all three factories. Production at Longbridge is set to rise to more than 500,000 with the launch of the new Mini next year, and a new medium-sized family saloon, the R30, to replace the Rover 200-400 range in 2002.
Meanwhile, production will also increase sharply at the Cowley plant in Oxford when the Rover 75 executive saloon goes on sale next month. Annual output of the car – the first new all-Rover model in 25 years – is scheduled to reach 120,000. Output at Solihull is set to hit 200,000 with the launch of a new Discovery model and the build-up of production of the Freelander.
Mr Saemann, who took over as Rover chairman from Walter Hasselkus in December, also told the German car magazine, Auto Motor Sport, that the price of the 200-400 range is to be cut further. Rover reduced prices by 10 to 20 per cent in March.