The Guardian, Wednesday 20 October 1999 02.09 BST
Two cars which will go a long way to determining Rover’s fate were launched yesterday amid flashing lights and loud music. The Rover 25 and 45 are revamped versions of the group’s tired 200 and 400 models, and will carry Rover’s small-car flag until their replacement by an entirely new model in 2003.
Rover said the 25 and 45 models were a considerable advance on the models they were replacing, with up to 40% of new components. The company said the 25 would compete with Volkswagen’s Polo, Ford’s Fiesta and Peugeot’s 206 models, while the 45 would be up against the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and VW Golf.
Together with the recently launched Rover 75 executive car, they represented “the new face of Rover”, a company spokesman said. “They have a distinct appearance which is unique and true to the tradition of Rover.”
Jim Parkinson, brand director for Rover Cars, said the prices had yet to be determined, but he suggested that they would not necessarily be the cheapest in their market segment. This was confirmed by Dr Heindrich Heitman, sales and marketing director of Rover’s German parent BMW, who said: “Our view is that the cars are not just kilos of sheet metal. You sell a car and the emotional values that go with it.”
He said he was pleased with the sales of the new Rover 75 , which is being made at Rover Oxford. Production was soon to in crease from 2,300 to 2,500 cars a week as the vehicle was introduced in overseas markets. He added that the workforce at Rover had stabilised after the loss of thousands of jobs in the past few years. The recently introduced flexible working hours scheme had increased productivity.
The 25 and 45 models will be built at Rover’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham, where their predecessors were made and where BMW is committed to investing £1.7bn.