Sales Talk : Just how did Rover survive for so long?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

rover dealer

A good friend in the trade sells Hyundai, and has done for a good few years. He once quite recently said to me that, ‘wild horses wouldn’t drag the franchise off him,’ owing to one very simple fact: his customer base. The showroom, which is based in a fairly affluent part of Bedfordshire, is nicknamed ‘Jurassic Park’.

By now, I’m sure you will have clicked on to the fact that most of the chimney pots his dealer serves are home to the more mature driver if you like. Before his foray into the world of Pacific Rim cars, he worked alongside me selling the Longboat, where once again, our customers tended to be one or two decades older than the norm.

I’m telling you this, as one of my current work colleagues asked me how MG Rover managed to stumble on as long as it did with ever-falling sales, year on year, until the wheels fell off in 2005. Of course, things like the cost-cutting Project Drive and the selling of assets helped the fight for survival. But if its market had been more mainstream, MG Rover would have died much sooner.

There were always two trains of thought within dealer and manufacturer level. One group insisted on chasing a more youthful buyer, with catchy car that appealed to the spirited owner. And the others, who were quite happy with the Trilby hat and tartan rug brigade, which admired the burr walnut and glove-box with ample space for Sanatogen or tinned travel sweets.

In the showroom, there is a certain eight letter word that sends shivers of fear into the most hardened sales manager: ‘discount’. The clever plan of introducing the Zed range back in 2001 answered many of the problems that Rover had in relation with this everlasting problem of its identity crisis. But it did encourage more switched-on buyers to haggle.

The zesty punter could fly the flag in a ZR, ZS and ZT, while the more senior customers could feel secure in the olde chrome and leather worlde of a 25, 45 or 75. My own take on the Rover customer was simple: long may they Womble though the doors. During another conversation recently I was asked: ‘who in their right minds would have ever paid full list of a Rover?’ You would be surprised!

In most cases, older buyers would have been embarrassed to even think of asking for money off a new car, let alone shop around or haggle for freebies. Selling a Rover to a mature owner was, like what one salesman quipped to me, as easy as ‘lifting pennies off a dead man’s eyes’.

So long as they were made to feel special and the part exchange valuation was half reasonable, very little went wrong when it came to turning the order form round on the desk and offering the use of your pen. I kid you not when I tell you that I once witnessed a KV6-powered Rover 75 Connie SE, with a few optional extras, sell to a mature customer who went from being a walk-in browser to signed customer inside one hour. Incredible it may sound, but not uncommon.

The BMW era saw the fatal axing of many of Rover's unsung hero's - the excellent retail dealers of which there were many.
The BMW-era saw the culling of Rover’s unsung heroes – The small retail dealer who offered exceptional customer service.

Sell a decent specification Rover at near or full list, and there was a hell of a lot of profit across the bonnet. But this was not reflected with the MG variants – it’s all in the customer base you see? Now… before some of you say we were taking advantage of older people, I’ll stop you right there, as this certainly wasn’t the case. Your ‘trad’ Rover buyer may have been older – but they certainly weren’t stupid, all they wanted was to be treated with respect and courtesy.

Towards the end of the soap opera that was MGR, many of the bigger dealer groups terminated their franchises as Rovers product range contracted. The BMW-era policy of slashing back the number of smaller ‘retail’ outlets from 1994 onwards was to eventually come back and bite MGR some years later. These sleepy villages and towns with their tiny showrooms were prime areas for MGR penetration but by post-2000 the Koreans et al had hoovered up the customer base.

Whatever your views are on the MGR range post-2000 may be, the company tried to recruit dealers run by family companies or SME (Small Medium Enterprise) groups, this saw the return of fair trading and customer care. Just like those quaint Skoda dealers of old or aforementioned Hyundai outlets, the people who worked there or owned them had so much more to loose than the huge corporate Gin palaces – they sold a piece of their integrity with every car.

Later MG and Rover cars may have been culled in terms of both quantity and quality, but customer care and service from the smaller dealers who remained in the network went some way to make up for this. From a sales point of view, so long as you are seen to be going the extra mile, your customer tends to respect that and in most cases stays with you. There was also an incredible brand loyalty that went against the brickbats and general consensus of opinions of the press.

But sadly, even a loyal customer base couldn’t save MG Rover. The Koreans and Japanese gave Mr Mature everything he wanted and more – quality, reliability and paramount customer service. And yet if MGR had climbed into bed with a foreign collaborator I truly believe they could have made it – albeit on a smaller scale… their days of mass production market share and fleet penetration were long gone before the Phoenix even smelled something was burning underfoot!

So I find myself back where I started with my conversation with Richard the Hyundai man… his customer base is similar to our days with MG Rover – well, those who are still with us anyway. He tells me his working week is very much the same as it was all those years ago – the same faces, the same cards at Christmas and so on.

So I posed him a question as to if a re-born Rover brand would ever have any viability in the current environment… he just laughed down the ‘phone at me.

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

90 Comments

  1. “there is a certain seven letter word that sends shivers of fear into the most hardened sales manager: discount”

    He will give a discount on the number of letters in the word “discount” 🙂

  2. They also had a habit of “dumping” stock on the dealers, especially when they had not ordered them, I know MGR Cambridge had 100 cars arrive one day, and no one knew anything about them, two weeks later, there was a rather large MGR Sale, with some really silly discounts being offered, hence my ZS at the time.

  3. “…others who were quite happy with the Trilby hat and tartan rug brigade, which admired the burr walnut and glovebox with ample space for Sanatogen or tinned travel sweets.”

    The problem with relying on old people as your customer base is that they have a nasty habit of dying out, or prematurely hanging up their driving gloves. The next generation of retirees moving to this part of Bedfordshire will have grown up on smarter German metal, and won’t be content to spend their affluent twilight years shuffling about in a crappy i10 or i20.

  4. The other problem with relying on old people is that future retirees will not be as well off as the current bunch (due to the decimation of pensions). Maybe they will have to look at Hyundai rather than the usual “old fogey” fodder (Honda, Toyota etc.). Mind you, Hyundai aren’t as cheap as they used to be…

  5. I am actually one of those ‘younger’ people (i.e. in my 30s) who likes Rovers and found them more appealing than the overdressed, undersprung and depressingly dark interiors of the MGs (and still do). However, from where I was standing back in October 2002 when interviewing a senior marketing manager with MG Rover Group, there was the automatic assumption that I would prefer an MG due to my ‘yoof’ and not appreciate the class, elegance and feeling of well-being from a Rover. How wrong the company was!

    MG Rover Group missed out by not understanding the Rover brand, the potential opportunities it presented and the fact there were quite a few buyers in their late 20s and 30s looking for a company car who preferred the Rover 75 over the MG ZT. Potential buyers who were not ready for reminiscing about the good old days.

  6. Not sure about “old people” wanting to retire with “smarter German metal”. I would guess when I am that age the last thing I would be bothered about is paying through the nose for a premium “brand” (aaaggghh) with which to impress my fellow care home residents. Something decent and good value like a Hyundai would do me just fine. As ex Jam person Paul Weller said “The older I get, the less of a (damn) I give about what people think of me”. “Old people ” have a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and are unlikely to be swayed by the “aspirational” and marketing BS….especially when we’re talking about people spending their own money and not “user choosers”
    Anyway…..any more patronising stuff about tweed, tins of humbugs and walnut veneer with which we can patronise our elderly friends??

  7. Many direct hits on the nail head from Mike in this article.

    I agree with 9 – I can think of two friends of a certain age who have just bought Kia and Suzuki – they wanted well made, pleasant, cheap to run and reliable cars and don’t give a stuff about the brand image of certain principally German manufacturers. The tweed and humbugs generation is going to that great carpark in the sky and I’m not sure that future generations will be as able to see through marketing b*llsh*t. I still think the demise of Rover has still left a sizeable but probably not long term gap in the market for traditional British wood, chrome and leather in a quality small/medium car range.

    This whole issue shows the problems SAIC has with MG and no equivalent Rover positioning.

  8. You might be a little surprised if you actually drive a ‘crappy’ i10/i20. They’re by no means as nasty as you seem to believe (although they’ve got the most appalling parts system known to logistical science). Bet you can’t tell me which Korean car had, as near as damn it, a Renault douvrin 12v – albeit 1300/1500cc. Even up to the weird “15c effect” – aka MPG improvement by 15% between 14 & 15c ambient temperature.

    Hyundai back in the day were the third partner in the Renault/Volvo link up – developing new engines. Renault got the 4/5 cylinder Volvo 16v & came up with the DCI engines (aka Distinctly Charred Internals). Hyundai? managed to nick everything they could get their hands on..

    Not guessed it yet?

    Au revoir le Safrane, vive l’Accent; should give you a clue.

  9. The importance of offering movement on price should not be undervalued.

    Earlier this year I was in the market for a new car, and did the rounds visiting many dealers, as much to ascertain the attitude of the dealership as look at the cars.

    I was shocked that many were so lazy as to only recite the list price when asked for a quote!

    But by far the worst quote came at Audi when I didn’t even get to ask for a price!

    The salesman killed a possible sale by suggesting ‘use of the online car configurator’ adding ‘the price calculated will be the price you pay: because we at Audi do not offer discount on factory orders!’

    Talk about a deal breaker, I walked out never to return.

  10. @11: Hyundai’s Mitsubishi links are well known. From the very early days they lifted everything they could from their Japanese friends. I was encumbered with a brand new Lantra estate as a company vehicle back in ’00, and its origins were very apparent when behind the wheel, familiar as I was with the Lancer models that begat so much of the crappy little Korean’s hardware. I have to say though, they’ve come a LONG way since then.

  11. You can buy/build a new car at your keyboard, are those dealer salesmen or order takers?

    Take the Auris, anything from Korea pisses rings round this boring heap and you reach that decision upon sitting inside and looking at a poor quality and MK1 Carlton-esque fireplace of a fascia. How many scores of millions have been recalled in the last four years?

    As an aside, the customer is king? a friend wanted a Golf GT TDi with black headlining and trim, no sir only if you buy a GTD, on that he walked and bought a second hand one.

    Its hard to comment on this thread in respect of Rover, akin to standing at a close friends gravestone and asking why he had to die of cancer.

  12. Francis why do you hate cars manufactured in Britain? The Auris may not be to your tastes but it is a home built car and a well built one. The recall issues are open and honest, it’s a pity other manufacturers wouldn’t do the same and instead try to deny problems exist.

  13. 15. I think you are so right about these recalls. You have to respect Toyota’s honesty in all this. There may well be others who should but don’t recall their vehicles.

  14. The old fella nearly started a fight with the Hyundai dealer in the 1980s after the clutch and rear suspension failed on his Stellar. The engine, from Mitsubishi, did seem to be fine, and he liked the ‘mk6 Cortina’ looks of it.

    @Darren

    Audi know that they can charge whatever they want, they aren’t exactly struggling, and most of their sales come from fleet hire repmobiles, who aren’t bothered with list price but the lack of depreciation actually makes them more affordable on the HP than the equivalent Mondeo.

  15. @Enrico, you’d think people commenting on a British car based forum would at least research the basics before posting.

    In general however I’m a young guy who enjoyed owning his 75. It was so soothing to sit into after a hard days work. I had to borrow an Msport 3 series for a few weeks not so long ago and simply hated it. Every trip was a nightmare. I’d agree MGR hadn’t a clue how to aim the cars in the final days.

  16. I was impressed by Toyota wanted to do a check on my Yaris when it was 7-8 years old & I was the 2nd owner.

    The local dealership still occasionally sends me things by email.

  17. Interesting how the discussion has moved from why MGR survived so long, through Korean stuff to having a go at Toyota.

    I visited a large Toyota dealership very recently and couldn’t get over the lack of inspiration in any car (there was no GT-86). I know the Auris and Avensis are built here and I’m glad a fair amount of people buy them as it’s good for UK plc. But want one? Never.

    Both Kia and Hyundai make more appealing cars with at least a modicum of style. Nissan, which also sells a lot of UK built product really does appeal to a lot of people as more than just a four wheeled domestic appliance. The Qashqai really does appeal (it would really appeal if there was a decent diesel/auto option). The Juke is not to my tastes but who cares? It’s selling loads.

    Toyota seem to have completely lost its mojo. The one reason to buy used to be quality, but you can’t say that now. Would any of us fancy a middle-aged hybrid? I wouldn’t.

    By the way, what do we think of our old partner, Honda these days?

  18. 1)
    A Toyota franchise is also a goldmine.

    Back to topic how Rover survived for so long.

    Reading Edwards W Deming, his opinion, Pre WW2 USA was very quality conscious on manufacturing standards, post WW2, the standards fell away or forgotten, his opinion, post WW2, the pent up demand for rebuilding/ restocking Europe was such it was a sellers market, the goods still sold even if the quality was poor, by the sixties and seventies this demand was lessening and the Japanese were on the scene, delivering gods which worked out of the box.

    Does this not partly describe Austin/Morris/BL/Rover etc, post war their cars sold, however good bad or indifferent, by the 70s the rot was setting in and market share falling and overheads rising leading to substantial losses.

    The same effect was in the Computer Industry, the 1980s there 7 giants, several of them household names, by the 90s many had tumbled, especially Wang Labs, had the somewhat dubious honour of working for the latter, part of a turn around team, found the billing department to be a rusty bucket, leaking money all the time, during the boom years money going in faster than the leakage kept up the illussion of all is well, but then the tap ran dry overnight.

  19. The older customer must have moved on since then. My dad is 70 and he’s just gone and blown 27k on a Mini ‘peak cap’ coupe. The silly old sod…

  20. @MM – Comment 22:

    The historical context is an interesting one although it has to be said in the defence of Rover, who were an independent manufacturer up until 1967, quality was always an important aspect of its product portfolio. After all, they were not competing in mass markets or with aggressive pricing to make them sell. Rovers of that era were noted for their quality engineering and assembly. By the early 1970s, there were indications that this ethos would be compromised, albeit not down to Rover’s own agenda…

  21. @15, 17. Fully aware its built here, even more so that I have removed an engine/gearbox/sub frame and suspension from one for jig work the other day.

    The interior is old hat. And that’s a fact.

    So is the fact that Toyota have been plagued by recalls lately and flowery adjectives and BS about honesty is not going to change a thing.

    I think if 25 million cars in total so far have been subject to various recalls its going to be hard to be anything other than honest, all from a company that is synonymous with reliability-What went wrong?

    And those lovely emails and reminders, sounds like they care, maybe they do. And upsell.

  22. I had no interest in Rovers until the late 90’s – had a couple of 25’s and 45’s as hire cars and really liked them I very nearly bought a MG ZR in 2002 – I think the Z cars helped Rover along for a couple of years despite their antiquated underpinnings. That said, Rover were synonymous with the grey £ as Mike alluded to. There wasn’t the marketing that Ford and ze Germans had.

    Toyota deserve praise for the way they handled the recalls unlike GM in the USA.

    On the subject of the i10, it’s a horrible little car. I had one as a courtesy car last year and although you could tell it was well screwed together both the brakes and clutch had no feel at all and to me that was downright dangerous.

  23. @25, you seen to be very passionate about running down a British built car. The interior comments are boarding on agree dive and they’re based on your own opinion, while the recalls have generally been to preempt faults. Its a pity GM don’t take a leaf out of Toyotas book. At least Toyota are recalling for potential faults rather than faults which have resulted in deaths. Still though, please continue to rubbish a British built car, its tradition at this stage.

  24. The thing is Car Reviewer, being deliberately blind to quality defects is what allowed BL to to virtually abandon quality because the punter would buy any old British tat – then the Japanese arrived and all of a sudden, the punter had a choice’ the rest became history.

    Toyota are taking, and do take, quality seriously and deserve to thrive because of that and not simply because they are built here.

    Toyota took their eye off the ball and it’s come back to bite them – Francis has a point but I don’t think Toyota will give up in the same way that BL did.

    MG need to look on and understand this lesson, no-one will forgive them for poor quality, the goodwill was burnt before them by BL and MGR, they’ve got one chance to get this right.

  25. Toyota are one of the true success stories of British motor manufacturing. They learned what Rover never did.

  26. Thanks go to Mike for the original article which was about why MGRover lasted so long. I do hope that when some of you reach the autumn of your life you will have more respect for yourself than you have for the elderly now. (Talk about putting people into little boxes – your pathetic!)
    Someone has mentioned a thing called an Audi. This is the company that produced the two year old A4 that I have the immense displeasure of using, thankfully infrequently. A more boring, ‘also-ran’, harsh and uncomfortable piece if kit I cannot imagine. Given the choice I’d rather have a forty year old Bedford CF van – the interior was nicer as well! And, – I haven’t finished yet! – And, if you do find the driver of a forty year old CF van, he’ll be a really nice chap.
    I’m not going to say anything about the arrogant ‘up themselves’ Audi drivers who immediately ‘floor it’ every time a BMW appears within half a mile, and will never let you go in front of them at a junction – as that would be putting people in little boxes. I would never do that!
    Keep Calm and Drive a Wolseley!

  27. @28 Dearie me, a default response as expected.

    Is that the same GM that CEO Mary Barra has put two development engineers on paid leave pending an investigation surrounding ignition switch faults thought to be responsible for 13 deaths? With the Chief exec of Jenner and Brooks at the helm of the investigation?

    You would have thought Toyota would have learned from the Lexus gas pedal fiasco connected with certainly one death in the U.S not just recent airbag squibs, columns and other safety related nomenclature. That’s a very big ball to take your eye off.

    This nonsense about running a British car down, a spade is a spade. The car on the outside looks O.K. but the drab interior is indefensible, Taxi fodder, made from easy wipe plastics when the customer hurls his baby seal sized kebab and 18 pints all-over it. With its cheap looking digi-clock on the far left of the dash, everything else in its class has it licked. Thank god the Civic holds its own against this thing.

  28. I think you’ll find the reason they are taxi fodder flies in the face of you saying they’re poorly built. So it seems you’ve proved my point you’re talking nonsense.

  29. Toyota can do quality, just spend time in a Lexus, even a £21,000 CT, and you will see that. I also suspect that even if the Auris fees cheap it will last well and prove reliable for the most part, compared to alternative products. The Auris certainly is doing well enough for them in terms of sales figures and as it is a British built product you have to be happy for them.

  30. Returning to topic, I found the article very interesting but it does raise a question for me. Will the non-hangling silver-pound slowly die out as the haggling yougsters grow older or is one’s propensity to bargain something that reduces as we age? How easy will it be for future generations of Hyundai salesmen?

  31. I’m finding it comical the inference that the Auris is a ‘British’ car. Designed in Japan and built by a company who’s majority shareholder is (indirectly) the French government….!

  32. My last car was a Toyoa Celica, I was a bit let down by the quality. The interior felt like it was built to a price, the radiator had no stonechip guard, the clutch was slipping after 70k and the 1.8 VVTi engines (as also fitted to Avensises) from the early 2000s had a known terminal oil consumption issue.

  33. @21 – I think Honda are doing OK these days, measured against their own limited targets on this side of the Atlantic. However, they are similarly dependent on the Grey Pound as Rover was 10-15 years ago.

    People on this site frequently complain that quality/reliability has been sacrificed in the name of cost cutting and CO2 emissions in recent years, but I think Honda is one of the better manufacturers in this respect. I have a ten year old high mileage CRV and it runs well and requires very little maintenance beyond basic servicing. I have no reason to doubt a brand new CRV wouldn’t be similarly reliable.

    It’s a shame there is no current equivalent to the Integra or S2000 or NSX or Prelude, but exchange rates and a declining sports car market means it would not be economically viable to develop these cars. Am looking forward to the new turbocharged Civic Type R when it finally arrives.

  34. My 2001 Yaris is holding up well, even when it’s only had the occasional long distance drive to get things running.

    In all the time I’ve had it the only thing to realy go wrong was the radio packing in, but I managed to get a better specced after market one fitted without much bother.

  35. @ 35

    I doubt it, if anything I think my father would be more discount hungry now than then. Watching him hang draw and quarter dealership drones was an education – although to be fair for several years he was a company car buyer so that was kind of his job.
    I think negotiating skills are something that’s withering on the vine – along with basic common sense & privacy. Its a skill you learn and my generation & younger seem not to value learning unless it comes with a certificate – if you can’t monetise it its worth nowt. The General Certificate of Selective Education didn’t help matters – a stoned Colabus could pass it. I’ve, no word of a lie, met people who think that Hermann Goering & Joseph Goebbels were members of a new boy band!
    Things have gotten worse since 2008 – quality in everything is backpedaling so fast its practically supersonic. Innovation (other than in how to fleece customers) is almost non existent. I bought a Nokia E70 in 2006 and it still works perfectly – 2011 E7 ate its charging port twice within 18 months & Nokia wouldn’t honour warranty.
    What really scares me is that anyone with the mental capability to breathe under their own power & walk upright could possibly think touchscreens and 80mph would be a good idea..

  36. I’ve not driven a single MG/Rover vehicle (and I’ve had a dozen over the last twenty years) that can hold a candle to the Toyota Auris for quality.

  37. I couldn’t really fault my old Honda Accord coupe, other than an appetite for rear calipers and the Siemens main relay cracking.

    A shame that the current Accord is so expensive though, they’re nowhere as popular as Avensis, Mazda 6 etc.

  38. I think the Civic has the same problem. It’s an excellent car with two excellent engines but the high spec models are far too expensive. One of the mags has a 1.6 diesel Civic Estate on long-term test. Price as tested is nearly £28,000. That’s not far off A4 Avant or 3-Series Touring money.

  39. Apart from HGF, which could be detected early on and sorted out with a better head gasket, the last generation of Rovers were generally good cars. My sister had a 200, which had its head gasket replaced by the previous owner, and this was largely a trouble free and comfortable small hatchback that was a quiet car on the motorway and could return over 40 mpg regularly.

  40. @33, I think yourself and Nick Clegg have a lot in common, mainly flatulent waffle and word twisting.

    I never said the Auris was poorly built. I said the dash was poor quality.

    You can bucolically assert I am anti British cars as much as you want, I am anti boring cars.

    Nowhere anywhere on this site do you find me dogging the Ellesmere port Astra or Jaguars, so I don’t really understand the sub teenage excrescence to the contrary.

  41. I bought my R45 when I was 48 and liked the chrome & wood effect touches. I was 51 when i changed it for a ZS cos I liked the all colour coding and part leather interior – and the bigger engine.

    Mike’s assertion is quite right though about the different types of customer that both Rover & MG would appeal to.

  42. @45 from previous days as a poor student my Vectra B never let me down. Once you look after a car it’s generally ok.

  43. @39. My bad! The reason I got confused though is because Nissan took their most established product and regenerated it into a clone of a less successful rival (I am talking about the latest version of the Qashqai and the fact that it looks like a Toyota RAV-4).

    The Auris is stil uninspiring though (CAR magazine called it Toyota’s Megane!)

  44. Going further back, I had a Rover 213 with the Honda engine. This proved to be a very reliable car and the Honda engine ensured it was a very smooth and economical drive. However, the tinworm started to eat away at it at 11 years old, so I sold to someone who wanted to keep the engine and scrap the rest.

  45. @42. You’ve driven the wrong models.

    A 1989-91 Rover R8 200/400 can hold it’s own against anything in terms of quality.

    Rover kept going so long because it’s cars were competitive in the market place.
    Knock the K series if you like, but even a decade ago there were not many 1.4 n/a engines that topped 100hp, the MPi 1.4 put out 103 and what’s more it was economical as well as lively.

  46. From Mike’s original article about how Rover survived so long we have degenerated into a nonsensical article about which Japcrap is best. The bottom line is it’s all hugely boring. Can we have some more proper history – about Rover, BMC, BL and all that. Cars with character – some good some bad and some horrendously bad – but at least they had character. At least its good stuff to read and remember!

  47. 1)
    defining “quality” in an engineering sense, ie fit for purpose, a low rate of manufacturing defects in each vehicle.

    2) Casting my mind back to the late 80s,

    3)The USA car industry etc had woken up to the the fact that Japanese cars were head and shoulders above USA/European products in such “quality”.

    4)The Toyota lean production system, which had taken 30 years of diligent was delivering “quality”, high margins of profit, and customer loyalty.

    5) The USA Govt funded investigations into the car industry delivered the report and book, The Machine Which Changed The World, highlighting the Toyota Lean Production System for high quality

    6)The Rover/Honda of the era, the 200 and 400 were indeed found to be QUALITY PRODUCTS with low defect rates and fit for purpose

  48. I don’t think they should have stuck a massive in your face chrome grill on every car in there range in the 90s that is what gave rover an old person image and then younger people stopped buying them and think if rover wasn’t going after old people then rover would have appealed to younger people so then they wouldn’t have had to massacre the mg badge by putting it on the z range of cars because they could have been badged as Vitesse’s and rover might still be with us.

  49. @70 don’t be daft! im only pratting about, you say what you want chief, I like the Rover 35 as well!

  50. The Rover 600 was an extremely competent car and very well made. I’d much rather have owned one of these over a Vauxhall Vectra or a Ford Mondeo in the nineties. For a time in the nineties, Rover were way ahead of their British rivals and people who’d had a good experience with a 600 would return to the dealer. Also the company nearly going under in 2000 saw a spike in sympathy buying.
    However, the 25 and 45 were very long in the tooth by the time Rover collapsed nine years ago and market share was down to 3 per cent. People simply weren’t buying and a large part of the grey market were deserting to Hyundai and Kia, with their long warranties.

  51. So, do we have some common ground, that Rover were on the right path, listening and learning from Honda, making praiseworthy cars such as the Triumph Acclaim, the 600, 200 and 400 models?
    The Acclaim wsa said to be so easy to make, they could have staffed the assembly hall with children

  52. Did the Acclaim really do the Triumph brand any good?
    It was a rebadged Honda with Mk5 Cortina seat frames.

  53. Rover survived because they made cars that people wanted to buy. Obviously. There was a mixed demographic of trilbies and baseball caps depending on the model.

    The Koreans make cheap-ish cars with long warranties and, in this era of cars being treated like washing machines, that is what people want. Trouble free motoring guaranteed under warranty for 5/7 years. Incidentally, Hyundais & Kias are no more reliable than aything else.

    I have driven an i30 and, to be fair, it drove pretty well, ok, it had a black plastic interior and the instruments were by Amstrad but it was a fairly good steer for the 3 weeks I had it on hire. Not that I would want to own one, but I can understand why people would buy them, especially the tartan rug brigade.

    Let’s be honest, Rover survived on sympathy buying for the last few years (indeed I nearly has a 75 tourer just before rover died, but the rear seat space was too small for the growing family and I ended up with a Saab 9-5 instead).

    I would take issue about Toyota, becuase their recall policy is the best of any car maker. They do not want the litigation that a major design fault would bring and have taken possibly disproportionate steps to prevent it.

    As for the design, yes, they are not particularly inspiring (although I did like the previous model Yaris), but I would rather sit in an Auris than a Civic (awful digital speedo, overcomplicated trip computer, coalhole interior. A reasonably specced Honda Civic 1.6 diesel comes in at £23k OTR or £21.5k if you haggle.

    Let’s be honest, BMW and the Phoenix rip-off merchants finally killed the brand.

  54. Francis, this I know.

    Avis have just offered me a Chevrolet Spark for a week. In the old days the company I worked for had an Avis hire fleet which specified drivers’ airbag and ABS as a minimum standard (not all cars had these at the time). Great until Avis started dumping Daewoo Nexias on us and people started refusing to drive them (marginal roadholding, steering wheel connected to wheels by a rubber band, noisy, thirsty and just plain nasty). Fleets will buy anything if it is discounted enough hence most main hire companys offering Chevrolets (that’ll be the Daewoo), Kias and Hyundais or if you upgrade you can have a poverty spec Golf 1.6TDI S.

    I have chosen to upgrade…

    Perhaps if Rover had done a fleet special they may have lingered for a while but I repeat, killed off in the 90s & 00s by BMW and Phoenix. Rot started in the late 60’s and 70’s by the idle workers and poor management.

  55. BMW and Audi are good at the Fleet lease hire / company car / HP game. Guarantee an end value and the HP rates are less than those of ‘mainstream’ manufacturers.

  56. Triumph Acclaim
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Acclaim

    if the above is accurate, then it was a bargain, in the top 10 for sales, upmarket specification as standard as per the Triumph brand profile, and lowest warranty claims of any car they had made, all good news for the future of the company, knowing the company was strapped for cash, they had a well-developed car on their hands for a very modest development budget.

    It is incredulous to read the Acclaim was intended as a stop gap car until the Montego/Maestro cars were ready.

    Memories of a work mates brand new Acclaim, purchased at launch, it returned 40 mpg, he had anticipated only 30 mpg, it never went wrong, and not a single warranty claim or problem, he was very satisfied with the car.
    the comaapny were on the right track, but the decision to replace the car with the Meastro?

  57. The Acclaim was a truly awful contraption . Fit only for the scrapheap from the day it was launched . Despite the sorry record of BLMC cars of the 70s and 80s , this had to be the nadir

  58. The Acclaim was a fine car and reliable, but it still did Triumph no favours. Even now given the choice I would Choose a Michelotti Triumph over and above an Acclaim.

  59. The Acclaim probably saved British Leyland in the light medium sector as the Allegro and Ital were on their last legs and felt ancient in comparison. Also being reliable proved that we could build decent cars again and probably inspired Nissan to build their factory here.

  60. @82, Fair point, but as the press would state we was fooling nobody, we was building somebody else’s car, as superb as it was this was approaching the Sierra era and folks initially baulked at that car after the Cortina so its axiomatic that people would say “its just a bloody jap car”.

    We can say look were the Japanese are now but that’s the way it was back then, its a shame this was the marques swansong -Triumph was capable in engineering terms especially the Desaxe configured OHV engines that were very strong and tunable.

  61. At the time, an import quota was in place to prevent flooding of the market by Japan, effectively protectionism for Ford/BL etc, misguided, as many Fords were imports doing little to protect the jobs of British car workers.

    It did not work, the dealers with Japanese franchises never had to contend with fire sales of unsold stock , they would offer good part exchange prices and still made money.

    Nissan(Datsun) ran what was effectively a scrapage scheme for part exchange, any car taken in exchange worth £500 minumum, even a car worth £25 at the scrap yard

  62. An interesting comment mm.

    Another thing worth bearing in mind is that the Japanese, besides their tempting offers, gave the punters what BL / Ford and Vauxhall often failed to…

    A product that worked straight out of the box and that fired up on a flick of the key… first time… everytime!

  63. It cost £1 to correct the defect on the assembly line, £10 in the assembly hall rectification bay but £100 to fix the defect at the dealer, plus you sow doubt in the customers mind. Applied in the right place at the right time. Quality is free, did BL ever figure this out?

  64. BL changed ownership and restructured so many ways and so many times, BAe, Honda, BMW, Phoenix, etc, every time the owners found the backs against the wall, another White Knight would appear on the horizon to postpone the inevitable

  65. Some of Rovers best years was with BAe, its just a shame the company was spunked away and not stewarded come what may.

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