Essay : When the Quality Auditors met the Rover 200

Keith Adams shares the juiciest bits of an Austin Rover internal planning document that spills the beans on the Rover 200’s performance in one of the company’s regular internal quality audits. It makes fascinating reading.

Rover 200 Quality Audit – the results are in

In February 1986, and months before the arrival of the facelifted (1987 MY) Rover 200, the Special Product Quality Team put together a report on the overall fit and finish of this car. Considering it was a quantum leap ahead of the Maestro and Montego in terms of overall build quality, there was still some way to go to compete with the best of the German and Japanese opposition.

The audit, which was undertaken by a number of teams of both Austin Rover and Honda engineers was nothing if not thorough. The report runs to more than 150 pages, and is the conclusion of a very thorough audit. The quality review included factory visits, trips to the dealers and three separate audits (conducted in October and December 1985 as well as February 1986).

The work undertaken led directly to a number of improvements which were incorporated into the 1987 model Rover 200. Bear in mind that this quality audit took place almost two years into the 200’s production run, and the number of problems encountered was very interesting indeed.

The team’s findings

The Rover 200’s overall quality was a big improvement and clearly demonstrated that, when dealing with a car which was designed for assembly, the Longbridge workforce was very effective at screwing cars together. However, a major issue with the Rover 200 was the consistency of the fitment of its doors. New BTR seals were fitted, which improved matters, but issues with the striker meant hard-door shuts were still not up to standard.

Rubbing strips along the doors weren’t fitted as well as they should be, and much work was put into making these work properly. For the purpose of this audit, this was an ongoing issue. The same with sub-standard A- and D-post finishers. The headlining was also prone to sag in these early cars and, if you had a juddery clutch in your early Rover 200, it was because there was an accumulation of sound deadening material underneath the pedal – due to the pads melting during production.

Dealer visits – the team’s findings

Two dealers were visited: Premier Motors and Colliers. At the showroom, the overall feedback was that dealers and customers were happy with the quality of their Rover 200s. Fussy window winding was a continuing complaint, and there was also some concern that paint quality had deteriorated from high levels previously seen by Premier.

However, Colliers reported general satisfaction with paint quality, and felt that there had been significant improvements in the months running up to the audit.

Other problems reported included:

  • Centre courtesy light failure
  • Door cloth trip pad puckering
  • Glue deposits on facia

Rover 200 Quality Audit – conclusions

A final assessment of the Rover 200 production quality was made by the Honda team of 7 February 1986 at Longbridge. At a final review meeting held on 11 February with senior Honda management, it was confirmed that ARG had attained the finished vehicle quality level terget set by Honda for the Ballade’s sub-contracted production.

Honda suggested four general principles for ARG to follow in ongoing Rover 200 production:

  1. Continued pressure to keep up consistently good quality. The Honda team was concerned about day-to-day build variations and ‘one-off’ problems.
  2. Quick action to resolve the outstanding items they raised
  3. Strengthen ARG’s own problem analysis approach to solving quality problems
  4. Better quality instructions and feedback to suppliers

There were still a number of annoying issues that were later addressed:

  1. Door checker noise
  2. Power window judder and stiff manual windows
  3. Rover 216 EFi cold engine knocking (engines were stripped, and found to have marked pistons)
  4. Cold-air bleed on fascia vents

However, fundamentally, the Rover 200 was in a good place in 1986. There were concerns raised about the differences between UK and Japan-sourced components, and manning problems meant that workers from Cowley were being drafted in to cover their missing Longbridge counterparts. The auditors said: ‘We consider that plant management has done a good job of maintaining quality under difficult circumstances. However, adequate manning levels must surely be a prerequisite for the elimination of random fault items.’

The report concluded: ‘A radical long-term approach would be to give a bonus system for workers based on quality rating achievement – possibly monthly or quarterly to reward consistency. The proper communication of the continued quality rating (CQR) system – and the heavy impact on CQR of a ‘major’ fault would also aid in achieving this consistency.’

Keith Adams


  1. We had two Rover 213s and apart from some rust, which you’d expect on nine year old eighties cars, they were otherwise faultless and light years ahead of Austin for quality and reliability. It proved one thing, Rover workers could produce decent cars if they were expected to be up to Japanese standards.

  2. My first jobs at Austin Rover were dealing with the issues in this report. Door issues – welcome to my world! Parts quality was a consistent issue, BTR were a small seal supplier, they made the parts to specification….sort of! Quality control was new to them! Their Japanese counterpart just made consistent parts. The checkarm issue was similar. Often the Honda supplier in Japan would make a part that would just work! It may not be to specification. The doors on the Ballade have a fundamental engineering issue (from Honda) – wrapping the doors over into the header requires a 3D door fit and is prone to manufacturing issues. Manufacturers tend to do it then never repeat it! Tho it as repeated on xx with disasterous results…..pre E46 3 series is another example. BMW diddnt repeat it.

  3. Oh and the window issues – I remember looking at the glass run seals in cab 2. These are handed I said to the team leader on assembly. They were not aware of this! The part is not symmetrical with the glass biased to the outside. The operators were just fitting anything!
    The emergency stop buttons were at head height in cab2 I stopped the track by mistake…..much to the amusement of the guys on the track, but they diddnt tell the supervisor when he came to reset it. Happy days!

  4. The quality didn’t really come right at Rover until the end of the eighties, when it became very stringent and Graham Day was determined to make the cars as reliable as those from Germany and Japan. Certainly Rover got it right on the second generation 200, which was extremely well made and reliable.

  5. I liked the original R200 from 1984 and the “facelift” versions were improved. a friend had a Vitesse EFi as a company car and I thought it looked great with the colour coding, alloys & boot spoiler.

    It was an achievement for Rover to re-design the boot opening to bumper level which made the car more practical.

  6. Had a 216EFI in Henley Blue 1988 model. Engine had been rebored (before we bought it-dealer forgot to mention it) at 34k and didnt make it to 70k. Seem to remember the 213 was a better bet as that had a Honda engine.

    Doors rusted at the bottom as well, alot.

    Didnt put me off-i traded it for a 1993 216sli, what a machine that was!

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