Blog : Is Rover bouncing back?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Sam Frank

Bouncing Back

Manflu – it always strikes me at this time of year and, last week, it duly struck. Remember those good old-fashioned colds which used to make you a bit drowsy and sniffly for a week or so? Whatever happened to them? Every ‘cold’ I get now renders me useless for the best part of a week, incapacitated and living off Lemsip and not much else.

The time spent in bed, though, allowed me to do much soul-searching and inner reflection – and a great deal of looking at car sites and forums, which is indeed, a very dangerous thing to do under the influence of Paracetamol-laced drinks. After a great deal of thinking and making pithy comments on pictures uploaded on the Autoshite forum, I soon had a reason to be cheerful after thinking about Rover.

Since 2005, talk about Rover has revolved around gloom and centered on doom. However, I am beginning to feel a little more upbeat about them.  Anyone here who suggests that Rover, as a marque may be ‘On the comeback trail’ as Auto Express would probably phrase it, is digitally shot down. Now let me make one thing clear, I think there’s just as much chance of seeing Lord Lucan having a beer with Elvis in your local, as there is of JLR dusting of the old Viking ship and slapping it on a new or existing product.

History should be left in past and Rover are just that. We should, though, take comfort in MG Motor UK in the same way as aircraft enthusiasts might in the preserved cockpit of a dismantled airliner. No matter how you look at it, ‘firm’ DNA is still very much alive at Longbridge. Rover, though, are not  but, as they said about Elvis, dying was the best career move he ever made.

Too often we think of Rovers as being scrapyard fodders, being carted off to breakers’ yards in their hundreds (maybe thousands?) each year. That may be true, but remember the youngest Rovers will soon be eight years old and that, these days, any car in the same age bracket, or older, will be in danger of an undignified ‘pick-a-part’ death and that later crushing of their stripped carcasses.

Some of them, though, are lucky enough to make it out alive.  Anecdote time… Earlier this year, in the height of summer, I pulled into my local petrol station to get some unleaded. At the pump directly opposite me there was a facelifted 75 Connoisseur. It had piped cream leather and flawless burgundy paint. Flawless at least, until I saw the damage to the front end of the car. ‘That’ll be scrapped,’ I thought to myself as I climbed out of my evil German car, when I noticed the owner  wondering around the Rover, surveying the damage. I wondered if it had just happened.

I postponed my refueling, to wonder over. ‘Are you okay, mate?’ I asked.

‘Yeah mate!’ (we all call each other ‘mate’ in Hampshire) ‘I’ve just picked it up from the scrappies,’ he said.

It turned out he bought the car as damaged repairabl, and was going to fix it himself at home.  At this point, I wanted to walk into the garage and buy him a cream egg as a reward for his services to Rover. That didn’t happen though, and I settled on giving him one of my wet wipes to clean some muck off the screen with.

In all the time I’ve been driving around the general area of the breakers’ yard, I have never seen a accident damaged car going in the opposite direction – until that day and the one car I should see being saved from bean can oblivion: a Rover. The gentleman was willing to put time, effort and money into putting a car back on the road, which was from a defunct car maker, with the residuals of a CRT television. Which means one thing – he loves Rovers.

He’s not the only one, as many users of this site and its Facebook group will testify. However, look beyond the internet, and you’ll see the dedication to Rover and all things Longbridge translates just as strongly in the real world. Take a look pictures from Pride of Longbridge – if you haven’t yet, Google it. Now in its eighth year, more than 1000 cars attended this year and I’m more than certain the numbers will continue to grow. Mind you, it’s not just in enthusiast circles where you can see the dedication to preserving and appreciating Rovers.

Next time you pass one on the street, take a look at it. You’ll probably find it’s in good condition. Maybe a bit scuffed here and there, if it’s an older car in daily use but, by and large, well-maintained looking. Look at a 16 year old Rover and compare it to, for example, a Vauxhall or Ford of the same vintage. My money is on the Rover looking like the best-cared-for car. There’s a fiercely zealous loyalty to the brand, which no other car maker, not even all conquering BMW or VW, seem able to match.

Not only that, but anyone who knows their Viking ship onions will be able to tell you that Rovers are in fact more than capable of being reliable, contrary to what the bloke in the pub will tell you.  The combination of many being equipped with K-Series units, which are accessible to most home mechanics and have great parts availability, bode well for their continued survival. Taking this all into account, Rovers probably have all they need to survive into Youngtimerhood and beyond.

All in all, that’s why I’m starting to think that Rover, to quote the marque’s most famous aficionado, Alan Partridge, is bouncing back…

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

43 Comments

  1. I still think The Rover badge could be put a two sizes of small car, built in India perhaps engineered in Britain and Sold as a luxury small car (like the Riley Elf was in its day). Most small cars are not very luxurious the Mini probably the pick of the bunch others are noisey and horrid places to be. But a lux Rover-ette (Jaguar Cub) I think would have a place in the market. Alex

  2. #1 – “Most small cars are not very luxurious the Mini probably the pick of the bunch others are noisy and horrid places to be.”

    Have you actually *driven* a current model Fiesta/Polo/A1/Jazz? Things have moved on since the Metro, you know…

    “The Rover badge could be put a two sizes of small car, built in India perhaps engineered in Britain and Sold as a luxury small car”

    Hmm, maybe they could call it the CityRover.

  3. Quote: “Since 2005, talk about Rover has revolved around gloom, and centered on doom. I however, am beginning to feel a little more upbeat about them. Anyone here who suggests that Rover, as a marque may be ‘On the comeback trail’ as Auto Express would probably phrase it, is digitally shot down.”

    Don’t I know it! I am the walking wounded with a body like a tea strainer from all the digital bullets I have received. But it isn’t enough to psychologically ‘kill’ my enthusiasm for the Rover mmarque.

    The Rover enthusiast in me found that Pride of Longbridge and the more recent Rover Sports Register’s Diamond Jubilee Rally were the highlight of the motoring calendar, as I got the chance to reminisce over some of the cars that proudly bear the Viking longship badge.

    Speak to Rover owners outside the Home market, however, and it is an even more inspiring story where the Rover name (on the right product) still remains a proud and illustrious one alongside fellow prestigious marques.

    Could the name come back? There are many within Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) who believe it to be a task too far given that restoring confidence in the brand itself would need a long term approach before they start to reap the benefits. Indeed, there would also be the potential risk of overlapping the expanding product portfolio of Jaguar and its ongoing brand enhancement policy. From a commercial point of view, the need to expand Jaguar’s product range and continue to rejuvenate the brand itself are far more pressing than diverting attention to waking up a resting brand.

    One question I would always ask anyone wanting to bring a name such as Rover back is: “Do you want to see the return of the Rover name just for the sake of being able to see and buy a new car with the badge on? Or do you see a genuine opportunity for the custodians of the brand to develop a specific range of products that are inkeeping with the Rover brand and its longstanding values, and can deliver an instant aspirational element?

    If it is the former then it is clear some enthusiasts are simply that – enthusiasts – who merely want the psychological comfort factor to be had from driving a car with a familiar name tacked on the front, regardless to whether that car is delivering the best credentials to raise the aspirational value of the brand itself. In other words, slap the badge on any product regardless to its origins, representation in the market place or whether it is ultimately suitable for the Rover brand itself (think CityRover).

    If it is the latter, then great – a range of products that has been conceived to fill a recognised niche within JLR’s product portfolio and which, at the same time, can help raise the aspirational element of the Rover brand.

    My view? The Rover name should not simply be applied to any old product for the sake of convenience or comfort, but genuine consideration given to whether it is appropriate for the brand long term, and not just in the Home market.

    Indian built superminis would more than likely kill any success of rejuvenating the name as this is not a natural market sector the Rover name comfortably sits in.

    Hopefully this article wil serve as a wake-up call to highlight the appeal of buying a Rover and giving it the attention and commitment it richly deserves. Even those which are in a scrapyard but can potentially be saved and with a bit of attention still deliver sterling service.

  4. Rovers aren’t small hatchbacks, that’s what they might have ended up as, but that’s not what the marque is all about.

    Rovers are upmarket, prestigious, aspiraional cars, and the products of Land Rover provide this in buckets. Everytime a Range Rover rolls off the Solihull production, for export to China or the US, the Rover name lives on, at the pinnacle of world motoring.

  5. I’ve been running a 2005 ZT for 2 years now, at first it was “just another car” but as time goes on it’s now starting to attract attention when I stop for petrol… My wife says I ought to get rid, especially after the 2nd HGF in 18 months (she’s a Citroen owner, by the way), but I just can’t imagine myself driving a Nissan Micra somehow.

    If the 75/ZT had an Audi or VW badge on the front it would have been a world beater…as it is, Herr Pietscrieder and memories of BL in the 70s did for it in the end. In my opinion.

  6. If JLR relaunched the Rover name it would need to be accessable but aspirational. Not an easy task. Thr TCV of 2002 comes closest, and eventually a P6 type car based on the new small Jaguar Platform, probably as a SD1, 800 Fastback type product but updated.

  7. Thing is if JLR did decide to bring the Rover badge back it would have little choice but to pitch the cars below the upcoming small Jaguar saloon.

    That is not to say the revived Rover brand would not have a place in JLR’s portfolio, so long as they make restore Rover’s battered reputation as aspirational and premium brand.

    Realistically and not including any LR/RR-based 2WD SUVs, the revived Rover range could include rivals to the 1-Series and Mini/Fiesta below Jaguar that would also spawn saloon variants though given that the Mondeo and 3-Series segments have merged, it would be a huge risk for JLR to even consider a small saloon based on the upcoming X-Type replacement when a saloon / fastback version of a revived Rover rival to the 1-Series would work just as well if not better.

  8. Maybe Rover (branded) cars will not return , but I have to say I enjoyed owning the 3 MG Rover’s I had and would do it all again… No regrets.

  9. I’d need to be excited by some potential product to want Rover back.

    Not that I’m not a fan of the brand – several of their product still tempt me and I’ve been a 75 owner in the past. But I’d need some convincing that they can come back with a bang for it to be worthwhile. It isn’t worth the brand returning unless it’s done well.

    Same applies to Saab, though unlike Rover, where no truly new products seemed to be on the horizon before its death, Saab teased us with the 9-5 and since then, designer Jason Castriota has released pictures of some of the “future Saabs” he was working on when the company folded.

    Those images make me want to see Saab return. For Rover to return, I’d have to see similarly exciting potential.

  10. Rover didn’t die – it just changed its name to Roewe and fundamentally new cars such as the 350 and 550 have appeared – not so sure about the GM based 950 and ex-Ssangyong SUV’s though!

    Given how well it’s still thought of I think SAIC/Nanjing should have kept selling the 75/ZT in the UK market, especially the estate versions if made unique to Longbridge.

    The return of Rover as a name is down to JLR – there is a niche for it providing JLR does not repeat the old mistake of concentrating on upmarket luxury vehicles to the detriment of market share/critical volumes.

  11. And yet another posting that requires people to state that Rover can return, it cant, end of, JLR will not invest the Billions required to develop and launch a new brand, Lexus has been around now for many years, and still does not make a profit.

    The dreadful relaunch of MG will be around for many years, and will be something teh no manufacturer would wish to copy, you will find that the majority of the world does not care one iota for Rover, and only people that frequent forums/blogs/websites like these are generally the only ones that wish a return.

    I mourned the day it went, but realised that it had to come, there was no other way it could have survived, there were too may factors against it to save a once great marque.

    Rather than have pipe dreams, why not celebrate the marvellous work of JLR and support them, rather than knocking them for not giving the odd one or two people here a car with a Rover badge on, after all, if Rover were to come back, I very much doubt that there are many people here who would actually buy one.

  12. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, JLR could develop and launch one, or a range of luxury on-road cars under the moniker of ‘Road Rover’.

  13. @13, They have enough on their plate trying to meet demand for whats in their range already,they dont want to be BMW,VAG or Mercedes Benz as TATA have stated, they are pragmatic and sensible on the direction of the companies path is bigger always better? Apple have lost £3 Billion in sales already.

  14. ” Next time you pass one on the street, take a look at it. You’ll probably find it’s in good condition. Maybe a bit scuffed here and there, if it’s an older car in daily use, but by and large well maintained looking. Look at a 16 year old Rover, and compare it to a Vauxhall or Ford of the same vintage for example.
    My money is on the Rover looking like best cared for car. There’s a fiercely zealous loyalty to the brand, which no other car maker, not even all conquering BMW or VW, seem able to match. ”

    I have often noted how many immaculate, loved Rovers there are ‘knocking about’ . Just yesterday driving home my attention was suddenly drawn to a white 45. “that looks tidy” I thought. Of course, my ZR, complete with its Pride Of Longbridge photo in the side window, must also stand out to the enthusiast !! My 75 was always gleaming too…

    How many ten plus year old Astras, Fiestas etc do you see so cared for?

    I’m sure the right person enthusiastic about Rover working in the right job could sew the seed of revival !

  15. I have owned a Rover R8 since about 1998, and over the years I have strayed from the marque, but always end up going back.
    My current steads are the 214 Gsi and a 1998 600 the Ex AR ONLINE project car http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/ar-cars/our-cars/project-rover-620/ ,But I do get a sense of pride if you can call it that, when I drive the Gsi as although I need to take care in case I damage it in the supermarket car park it really does stand out amongst the modern Euro boxes.
    But of course driving a Rover these days brings on the usual comments about them being rubbish and HGF, but those same people will quite happily shell out for new Dual mass fly wheels and diesel particulate filters on their new cars, all because those cars in their eyes are better and cheaper to run.
    The 600 is becoming a rare sight around these parts so even driving that gets you noticed but still brings on the same comments about HGF,Oh the innocence of the ill informed!

  16. @ Andy my case in point ie the perfect example The last Fiesta I drove was a 2007 model… It was noisy and horrid place to be in fact I would say the worst of the pack. The Honda City / Jazz the more or less the same noisy and horrid. Toyota Corrolla not as noisy but still horrid. Even the tired Rover 25 I drove on the same day was a much much nicer car apart from the worn out CVT it was fitted with. I would have bought the Rover 25 if it weren’t for its stuffed gearbox. hence my Belief that a small luxury car with good performance would sell. alex

  17. A number of good points above. About Rover not being a small car. true perhaps But I think that the larger car market is adequately covered by Jaguar and Land Rover. Given that the trend is towards SUVs and CrossOver vehicles I think large Rover would struggle to sell. As for the perhaps tarnished Rover Brand, I think that is history. If JLR were to bring out a Rover-ette I think that they could sell it with the JLR quality backing and make sure the public received it well. not like the MG6 promotions. The small luxury car might be well received if it was Rover by Jaguar.

  18. @20
    And thats what the ‘Jaguar 3 series’ should be, a ‘Rover’ the main markets do NOT see Rover as damaged goods, in fact of the 2 biggest one sees rover as a seriously premium brand, with the Range Rover as the top of the range. The other one would probably see it the same way so as long as the car is right the badge would in no way be seen as negative. If the quality is there then the home market image will change

  19. @18, yes but the difference is Skoda never went out of production, it had a far bigger production base and sales, even when at its worst, and VW pumped billions into it to get it to where it is today, NO ONE will do that to bring back a far more damaged brand like Rover.

  20. Each and every time Rover entered the US it failed, no amount of pushing the Sterling brand on to TV programmes like DALLAS could stop the poor reputation it had, Rover will not return, not for a few decades, and even then it would heavily depend on how much JLR has increased in size and sales.

    The only way Rover could go is smaller, smaller than the new XT, Jaguar has the rest of the markets covered with the XF, XJ, FT, XK, QT, and a number of other cars due for launch before 2020.

  21. I think if JLR Relaunched The Rover brand as a mid to large executive/luxury car with a choice of diesel&Hybrid engines They”d be on to a winner The Rover marque is still a very strong one stronger i think than MG..What blighted the rover marque was putting it on the likes of the metro&”city rover” The original 200/600 series &75 are still well respected cars & still look great today design wise if JLR would relaunch a 200/400/600 small family of rover badged cars with good engine choices i think they”d succeed Its the re~Launching/marketing of the Rover name”s the uphill battle.

  22. The momentum for the Rover brand was lost as soon as BAe ofloaded it to BMW-one of only a handful of good deals BAe did. They came up smelling of Roses. Steadily the marques equity was eroded with the doomed launch of the 75- introduced in a fanfare of misery to the worlds press.

    Then we was told we had to have a BMW on our drives when a Mondeo could do anything a 3 series could.

  23. Rover is a car brand that belongs in Solihull and calling cars from Longbridge and Cowley Rovers was only ever an aberration. Now, thanks to Tata, Land Rover have got the rights back and that’s a very very good thing. Let’s just forget pretend Rover.

  24. @24
    Each and every rover that entered the US market failed?? I don’t think so.. Two words for you.. Range Rover, that failed really really badly didn’t it, the Land Rover failed as well, and in fact the P6 was far from a failure, check your facts. The only rover that was sold under the badge to ‘fail’ in north america was the SD1. The 800 was never sold as a rover there, 99.9% of Americans don’t even know the 800 existed, of that 0.1% that know of the ‘Sterling’ 99.9% of those don’t even know it had any connection with rover.

  25. Although in regards to the article I would argue that The Queen, Roger Moore and Grace Kelly are more famous than Alan Partridge!

  26. I have run Rover 75s since just after the company folded. My cars are still reliable well maintained daily runners, and given a bit more attention with the bucket, sponge and the Autoglym still tidy up very nicely.

    I enjoy my cars and get the occasional complement from other motorists. Who knows, if I hang onto them long enough, they may be regarded as classics in the years to come.

    I think we must though all accept that Rover as a brand for new cars is dead, as much as Wolseley and Riley are. The market is crowded enough as it is and the immense amounts of cash to launch (or should that be relaunch?) Rover as a brand will not be forthcoming. Does BMW not own the rights to the name anyway?

    Sorry to put a damper on things, but there you are! Buy a Rover for peanuts while you still can and enjoy them for what they are. Within a few years, they will be a rare sight.

  27. Whether or not Rover can ever come back in any form is almost impossible to consider with any authority today. The unimaginable today could be the latest trend in just a few years time. The idea of bringing back (for example) Riley and Wolseley may really be ‘cool’ in 20 years time – maybe ‘art-deco’ could make a return as well. Ercol furniture has just become ‘the in-thing’ after forty years of obscurity – would anyone at Ercol have predicted that in 1970? We have no idea of what will be acceptable to future generations – ask an 80 year old if they ever thought people would walk around with FCUK or GAP in large letters on their clothing!
    On another point, I’m not sure that Rover’s reputation was worse than Skoda’s as has been suggested. The Skoda I remember was the 60’s Octavia and the later MB rear engine series. Worse reputation than Skoda? You have to missed the 60’s and 70’s to say such a thing. And they did come back from it big time – as we all know.

  28. i think all we can do is carry on loving our rovers, after all we are an elite bunch in many ways, i have just had my 1984 rover v8 vanden plas restored and boy does it look good, stands out from all your audis and bmws. people come over to me where ever i go to admire it. you dont see that in any modern stuff.
    i will keep it as long as i live already had it 23 years.
    people never mention to me about faults and HGF just what a shame ROVER no longer make cars!! they love it…

  29. I think the Rover marque could easily bounce back if JLR were keen to fill a sizeable gap in their portfolio. Would be interesting to see Rover and Roewe meet head on in Eastern markets, especially if Rover was relaunched properly from the outset.

    FYI Partridge defected to Lexus (the ‘Japanese Mercedes’) in series 2. Shocking.

  30. And look what happened to Lexus, even Craig David sank when Bo!Selecta lampooned him without mercy.

    What sizeable gap is there in JLR’s portfolio? Are they skint and in need of new models?

  31. Mention of Sterling – I’d draw parallels to Merkur.

    Sold mk3 Ford Granadas and XR4is in the US market.

    Like Sterling, it was an unknown brand badge engineered from a stronger brand. Due to this, at the time the US market enjoyed ‘full size sedans’ and unfavourable exchange rates it flopped.

    These days Ford US sell the next-gen Mondeo as Fusion, as well as the current Focus and Fiesta. The market there has changed.
    I’d say something like a Citroen DS5 – which is crossover-like in a slightly more elegant body, would do well if the badge was to make a return. Heck, the DS line itself shows that a tarnished brand (under Peugeot, Citroen was known for cheap deals with suspect electrics) can be reinvigorated with the right marketing.

    The Rover 75 is aging well, has the elegance of a Jag. Every time I see a 600 or an R8 it looks like it has been looked after.

  32. @31 Hi alasdair,No BMW sold the Rover brand name initially to Ford in 2006(Included in the Rover name are Alvis,Lanchester,Daimler&Riley brands)TATA then acquired it when they bought JLR in 08 the Rover brand name was included in the sale Now here”s another grey area which no one seems to know?Who owns the Viking emblem?As far as i know TATA didnt get the “rights” to its usage on vehicles?I not to sure but heard this one being brought up before.

  33. BMW licenced the name Rover to MGRover to prevent SUV production (the Streetwise seemed to be tolerated..).

    I guess when MGRover went to the wall, BMW sold Ford the name to sit alongside Land Rover, primarily to stop any Chinese company building Rover SUVs.

    So for 2 years, Ford owned Rover (if only the name).

    It might’ve been interesting if they’d used it, even to export Lincolns or Australian Ford Falcons.

    But by that stage the world was teetering on the brink before the current economic depression, and JLR were sold to TATA by 2008.

    It seems that, according to Wikipedia copyright notice, NAC own the longship

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MG_Rover_Corporate_Logo.jpg

    I’m surprised they didn’t throw it onto Roewe…

  34. @38 Hi will M Yeh thats what i thought alright(Nanjing owened the longship emblem)a fairly complicated break up of the rover brand really.

  35. @3 Dave 3500

    A very interesting analogy particularly the paragraph

    “One question I would always ask anyone wanting to bring a name such as Rover back is: “Do you want to see the return of the Rover name just for the sake of being able to see and buy a new car with the badge on? Or do you see a genuine opportunity for the custodians of the brand to develop a specific range of products that are in-keeping with the Rover brand and its long standing values, and can deliver an instant aspirational element?

    For what its worth my view is this….The Rover name needs a good long rest for everyones memory to fade of the final dreadful years especially the “City Rover” and a more rose tinted view can be seen with P5b, P6, SD1 and yes the 75.
    The only way I can see a return with any ease is for Rover to become a sub brand of Land Rover as is the Range Rover, Discovery and defender sub brands. Taking shape as allroads, MPVs and small sports hatches, I cant imagine Land Rovers existing sub brands taking on these roll without affecting their creditability or Jaguar for that matter. A sub brand of Land Rover then wouldn’t need the Viking longship. JLR know they have to produce more vehicles to compete with other global manufacturers that’s why they have struck a deal in China with Chery.

    In truth I think JLR have so much to do right now and have so many easily, more profitable option in expanding their existing ranges, I doubt they have the time, funding or urge to risk any form of Rover rebirth any time soon.

  36. I’m not sure how the longboat copyright would play out – any car with a badge with a longboat on the badge? Specifically in a shield? The specific images from the Rover badges?

    There would always be a way to design around it, as per the 2003 badge facelift.
    Even Rover in a Montego-style bonnet badge…

    Saab has a similar situation, NEVS can use the name but not the badge – which belongs to Scania. Although a car with a horizontally split grille with the word SAAB in the middle would be recognisable as such.

  37. Well if Jaguar can build an SUV why can’t rover build an executive car?? (Called strangely enough a ‘Rover’)

  38. I think a”pre 2003″ logo(Except the shield&just the Vikings head) would do the trick re getting around the Rover emblem copyrights..The Vikings head on the P3&P4 models looks great really stands out like the Rollers “spirit o ecstasy” Speaking of saab i think vauxhall & Bedford had a similar gripe re the”Use of Rights” to the griffin badge to(AWD who bought bedford wer”nt allowed use the “bedford Griffin login)

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