News : JLR’s Chinese venture – Rover’s return?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Autocar magazine is reporting that the forthcoming Chery/JLR joint venture in China will be marketed under a new brand name. It says, ‘the sub-brand that will emerge from Jaguar Land Rover’s joint venture with Chery is set to spawn a series of small SUVs spun off the Freelander platform, sources in China have suggested.’ AROnline asks the question one more time: why not Rover?

The marque name fits with the current line-up, and has a great English heritage to call upon. Whether JLR fancies a punt, given that SAIC is doing reasonably well with its vaguely similar Roewe marque name is open to debate – but given the UK company’s strength in depth, and current coolness, it could easily carry it off in the world’s fastest-growing car market.

As for why a new marque is needed at all – Chinese government regulations state that for a car manufacturer to build new vehicles in that country, it needs to form a joint venture with a domestic producer – and do so under a new brand name. The Freelander-based cars should then be sold independently. JLR and Chery have said they would also establish a research and development facility in China, build engines and sell vehicles produced by the joint venture together.

The joint venture also includes the manufacture of JLR models in China. Sources suggest that production of the Freelander and Range Rover Evoque will take place in China, alongside a much-needed new Jaguar compact saloon/hatch/crossover, possibly a new 3-series rival. China is set to become JLR’s largest market in 2013 – with Land Rover being the dominant partner currently.

All models will be built at a new plant in Changshu, about 100 miles west of Shanghai, from the first half of 2014.

[Source: Autocar]

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

46 Comments

  1. Why would JLR let the Chinese gain control of 50% of the Rover brand name?

    I see the logic of using the Rover brand but would JLR want to surrender it to a JV?

  2. The only reason that Tata wanted the Rover brand name was to stop someone else stepping in and using it to create a vehicle that could be confused with the real thing.

    If they want to distance their premium name from these sub premium offerings, they would be bonkers to use the defunct Rover name, for the very same reason.

    Knowing the Chinese’s love of buying in heritage, there are plenty of other names that could be used. Even though it would be cringeworthy to see Morris, Austin or Wolseley used, at least it would save the premium image of Land Rover.

  3. I think It was Ford that bought the Rover name from BMW for Land Rover, but it is part of the JLR stable. the buying of Rover from BMW was something that Ford already had the first rights to do under the sale of LR to Ford, the Rover brand wasnt initially included with the Land Rover sale as it was then being used by MGR (on loan). i dont see why JLR couldnt use the brand, im sure anything JLR put out with the Rover Brand on it would be great, and I think the public would buy it…and be able to put asside the problems of the Phoenix 4. afterall some people still remember the Metro and the Rover 800 Vitesse and the Rover 75 in VERY GOOD LIGHT. alex

  4. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Defender tooling ended up in China, to make a cheap 4×4 for the home market

  5. It would not surprise me if the Rover name comes back eventually. But who owns Standard at the moment? That would be my choice, and keeps the Asian-British link going.

  6. Whilst it is good to see JLR doing well in an emerging market, my big concern is that the UK has already lost ownership of the company, and it now appears that much of the R&D and manufacturing capability will also be moving East.

  7. i understand that you have to create stories for the site,but this is ridiculous,rover is dead,enjoy the past by all means,its why we come here and enjoy the site,move on keith.

  8. Standard is a very good idea, however there is nothing to stop them building Rover branded cars for export from China. I have a nagging feeling that there is a condition of the new Chinese brand that it is not to be an existing marque (which Rover technically still is)

  9. It’s my understanding that the branding requirement for joint ventures was specifically to encourage the development of new domestic Chinese nameplates with more modern technology. I don’t know whether Chinese authorities would regard a preexisting (albeit dormant) brand like Rover as truly domestic.

    The purpose of the law is to force industry consolidation by crowding out all the smaller, regional, independent automakers by getting the Big Five state-run manufacturers to mass-market cars under domestic Chinese nameplates instead of foreign names borrowed from their JV partners.

  10. It might work in China as the Rover name is ‘new’, mind you ,in some parts of China any name will be new.Elsewhere, forget it, realise that the whole thing has been gone for a long time and there’s too much negative baggage with the brand/brands.

  11. @8 Chris: Keith did not write the original story, and i can see the use of teh Rover name being a possibility, however the recent history of teh company might make it a bit of a liability, but if they were to use teh Morris or Austin brands, you can just see the Marina and Allegro stories coming to the fore.

    In a lot of countries Rover is still seen as a premium good brand, why not use it for those countries and if, IF, Rover was to be reintroduced to the UK, then it needs to be after a roll out elsewhere to cure any issues, because if there were any issues at the beginning then the Rover name may well become a death-knell.

    As for moving on, no, i would dearly love for Rover to still be here, and i would still be buying them, we can hope that one day Rover will return, but in the interim we can all hope and wish, and not move on from our opinions.

  12. Thanks JagBoy. Interesting and I’m an optimist about such things. I think recent history and all that baggage has been transferred to MG and Longbridge, and actually believe that with JLR’s good fortune and brilliant design, and the ‘Evoque’ halo would rub off on any new ‘Rover’ to come out of Gaydon.

    But then what do I know?

  13. As an optimist too, I would like to see Rover return. But for the China market, would they see Rover as a rip off of the Roewe brand, not the other way round? However, I still find it hard to understand why, even in a 3 series sector, the Rover brand is necessary in Europe. I’d love to drive a small Jag!

  14. @7: The car business is a global business or it’s nothing. The German companies have been doing this for years and no one seriously doubts their commitment to Germany. BMW’s and Mercedes are made/assembled all over the world, but still engineered and built in Germany in large numbers. The alternative strategy is to continue as before, which in business is the route to a lingering death.

  15. Jaguar has the prestige, and the history, the sort of stuff the Chinese would probably go bonkers over, but Rover? Nah, its extinct, not to be resurrected. Also, it’s all well & good having these joint ventures in China, but, and it is a huge one, the Chinese government are the ones that call the shots, and if they suddenly decide to pull the plug, they instantly have all that manufacturers tech & knowhow. A worrying thought when you look at it, especially with China’s lax attitude when it comes to copyright infringement

  16. @Graham Sturgess

    I would see the Rover brand as a “sub-premium” brand to take on the likes of Skoda.

    Jag is definitely the german beater, their small saloon and SUV are all but confirmed.

    And as for China pulling the plug, the likes of Citroen, VW etc. have had no issues thus far. Even if their cars are mostly old ZXs, Santanas and 308 saloons.

  17. Why should Keith “get over it” because Rover is dead? From what I understand of the Chinese is that anything British and reeking of wood and leather goes down a storm over there! Why not dust off the “Sterling” nameplate for the Chinese market?

    There is a whole basket of names that could be resurrected instead of paying a marketing guru to invent a new one, creating a new model with a new brand is surely no more expensive than doing the same with a forgotten label. The advantage of an old name is the back catalogue of models to imply heritage and substance to the product, something Lexus still cannot do after more than 20 years!

    Ladies & Gentlemen, TATA are pleased to announce the launch of the Alvis T4400!

  18. Not too sure here but I don’t think TATA own the Alvis brand. The Standard name, well the advert straplines write themselves.

  19. Why on earth would JLR actually want to build, let alone even consider designing, anything in China? Those Chinese who presently buy JLR products wouldn’t buy them if they were made in China. The risk of tainting the brand with some cheap Chinese revived name model are huge. I work for a company that made the decision to move some products to China while retaining the new stuff in europe. Result the product from China never met quality expectations and the higher the local design and purchasing content the worse the situation gets.

    Also any opening up of your technical knowledge merely results in even more copying.

  20. It always seemed a bit odd that an Indian owned company with a vast array of Indian factories with the cheaper labour that also implies, would want to produce anything in the country that is going to be India’s biggest rival in near future?

  21. @24

    Tighter environmental controls, ‘rival’ is an interesting term when your firm is profiting regardless, and the domestic market in India is not as mature.

  22. If you want to be a significant player in China, you have to manufacture there. The likes of Audi have a MASSIVE presence in China, and the profits they make there can be used to attack JLR elsewhere in the world.

    Assuming this ‘new brand’ is a contractual obligation for the Chinese market, then presumably they will want something that sounds distinctive, but British. What about Lanchester 🙂 I’m sure JLR must still own that brand…

  23. The main reason for going to China is to get around the tariff costs.. 100% of the cost before it even gets through customs. Presently Jaguar cars are super expensive as a result, and so they need to build them there.

    In order to do their thing, they also have to collaborate with an indigenous manufacturer. Many have had to do this so they have no choice.

    The new brand is unlikely to be Rover as the LR brand has to be heavily protected and it’s more than likely TATA will want that for their own cars. However, you may have to wait three car generations to see that happen, if at all. – The new brand will more than likely be a lot more Chinese-centric. So don’t worry guys, the Rover name is quite safe.

    As for Audi- They only produce the A6L just for that market so expect to see lots of LWB XJs of differing trims out there. Perhaps even an XF ‘L’.

  24. I don’t think it’ll happen. Many Chinese pronounce V as W, which makes Rover and Roewe when spoken practically indistinguishable. I’d always assumed this was the genesis of the Roewe name in the first place!

  25. Lanchester Is another brand which JLR still owns I think. While it might not suit a passenger car, I reakon it would suit an open top sport cars (aerial atom style)! or maybe a series of small eco-sports cars… alex

  26. Lanchester Is another brand which JLR still owns I think. While it might not suit a passenger car, I reakon it would suit an open top sport cars (aerial atom style)! or maybe a series of small eco-sports cars… alex

  27. @ Jimbo – I understood Standard was owned by BMW being part of the old Standard Triumph ?

    I hope the compact or X type replacement is also made in the UK; the article suggests China but hopefully not solely.

  28. Apart from Swallow being a forerunner to Jaguar, the other option might be to take a leaf out of the Rover Group’s book and use a derivative identity for the UK market (and others) as the basis for a new brand name in China. So, the contenders from JLR could be Sovereign or Majestic from Jaguar or even Sterling from the Rover days.

    Any of these names conveys perceptions of Britishness, so would have some credence on new joint venture vehicles to be sold in China where brand heritage does not form an important consideration in brand desirability.

  29. Stop knocking the Rover brand. I want to see it back, so do many others here. If JLR designed and launched a new model, then put a Rover badge on it, would that alone make it rubbish? Of course not! JLR post Ford have a record for producing very good cars. Why would that change if they had a Rover badge on them?

    The anti Rover muppets are on the wrong forum, and probably drive German anyway. Hands up all those who’ve seen the sight of tailgating Audi’s in their rearview mirror recently!

  30. I don’t think people are knocking the Rover brand, but simply pointing our that it carries a lot of baggage from the BMW/Phoenix 4 days, and they already have the successful Jaguar, Land Rover and Range Rover ‘brands’ to use.

    I assume these Chinese JV vehicles would be largely the same as the Freelander – I can’t see JLR having the resources to make radical changes – maybe a LWB variant?

  31. JLR are a wiley bunch and know full well that the Chinese have absolutely no regard for anything owned by anyone else. They regularly rip off other peoples patents, intellectual property and trade marks and if you do get it to court the ‘Communist Good Lads Club’ throw it out. Think BMW X5, Twitter and Apple. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reowe was being marketed as a Chinese spelling of Rover and all the history that goes with it.

    This joint venture will of course be 50% owned by Chery but they will get nothing of what is in Coventry, not even a Latte in the canteen. The major bug bear I have with this is not what it will be called, (whats the Mandarin for big cat?) but what will happen when, finally, the state cannot artificially inflate the economy year on year?

    Because China is such an aspirational place now they are demanding more and more in wages to have all the things we have, TVs, PCs, broadband, cars, homes (that are not earmarked for demolition), Casinos, Ikea furniture and the like coupled to all the disputes about manufacturing and the war of words with Japan. China is becoming more and more expensive to buy from. I know of a couple of companies down here in Gloucester that have brought the Manufacturing part of the business back in house because the costs are no more and things don’t have to be ordered so far in advance meaning less wastage and less cost. China will start to slow down soon. The last thing JLR needs is 5 million cars it cannot sell because the people have declared civil war on the autocrats in charge.

  32. Agree with OilyFingers. It’s only a matter of time where they will have no choice but to join the WTO and have to fall into line with everyone else. jLR have noticed a massive difference ever since Russia joined and now they are experiencing a surge in orders.

    My friend predicted there will definitely be a lot of chnages in the next 15-20 years and you’ll probably even begin to see a flicker of industrial life from Africa itself… Although a lot of that depends on getting around China’s interference.

  33. @35 – lets not forget Jaguar carried a lot of baggage from the BL days too.

    I only suggested Alvis as an aside, considering that Rover bought them in the sixties. Sterling is my favourite as it is as “British” as it gets, is linked to Rover and won’t carry the tainted image that the name attracted in the USA 25 years ago as it was virtually unknown to the rest of the World, especially China.

  34. I think TATA know what they are doing,they have thier bobby sands in everything,from Tetleys teabags to accountancy and industrial services the world over,i dont know if Rover will come back-i wish it would because all the BMW range look boring now regardless how good they drive.

  35. @37.. Africa is ripe for economic expansion, it is rich in resources and the Chinese have already got their feet under the table. Interesting article on the radio tonight about the fledgling IT industry in Kenya developing phone apps that really help the populace, in the absence of a landline/broadband infrastructure mobile phone ownership is approximately 75%. As Mobile IT becomes more intertwined with the car industry will we see a move by Western car companies here to take advantage of a low-cost, skilled workforce bringing with it an increasingly affluent customer base.

  36. I think it depends if this J/V plans to produce vehicles for the domestic chinese market or for export as well. The MD of JLR has said that they need many more products in the 20-30K segment that the germans dominate so well. Jaguar can do battle with the 3 series but a smaller quashqui type SUV could easily carry the Rover name for chinese and export markets. A rover could also do battle in the small preium sector with a A2 competitor which would not work using the Jaguar brand. The R8 showed that if best in the class, the Rover brand can still work. Yes it would need some clever relaunch in the UK market to change perceptions but not elsewhere.

  37. I echo Rob @12.

    The Rover brand is unlikely to be used on the new Chinese division. Currently the Chinese government is trying to wean the motor industry off of dependency on partnerships with foreign companies, so they’re encouraging the launch of new Chinese brands. For example, Shanghai GM is launching “Baojun” to slot below Chevrolet.

    Rover could make a comeback, but not in this deal. However, its return could be related to China. Mid-level luxury models like Buick’s and Volvo’s are very popular over there, so Tata/JLR could try to bring Rover back to compete. In fact, Tata would benefit from some premium FWD chassis filtering down to their core budget car range like what happens with VW/Skoda. This would most likely be a British-Indian project and one aimed at many similar markets (North America? ASEAN? Middle-East/North Africa?) rather than a Chinese one. It would be foolhardy to put the Longship brand within spitting distance of China’s fabled IP infringers.

  38. Rover would be a good sub premium brand below Jaguar if carefully managed. Look at what VW has done with the Skoda brand over the last twenty years. It would bring them economies of scale too to allow cheaper sourcing of mundane stuff like batteries, washer bottles etc

    I think it could work, but the cars need to be very good, or something different and distinctive

  39. Over the next 5 years TATA are going to be introducing their new vehicles into western Europe ,North and South America and the middle east what’s the bet it uses the Rover name. The new Europe/USA TATA nano becomes the City-ROVER and the small hatch backs and saloons become Rover models. It already has stated it is looking at using the Daimler brand as a stand alone up market car above the Jaguar brand so it would make sense for City-Rover(micro),Rover(base),Land- Rover(4×4),JAGUAR(premium),Range-Rover(premium 4×4) and Daimler(luxury).

  40. The Standard brand is owned by SAIC, it passed to them along with the other legacy brands when they acquired Nanjing. Quite why BMW didn’t retain it along with Triumph is anyone’s guess, perhaps they didnt see the Standard-Triumph connection as relevant.

    I have spoken to someone who works at JLR and whilst he wouldn’t tell me what brand they are going to use for the JV he did confirm that its not Rover, Lanchester or Daimler. More than that there is no appetite within JLR to use the Rover brand. Outside of the UK Land Rovers are often referred to simply as Rovers anyway so it would cause too much confusion.

    Tata have already confirmed that they will be launching cars under their own name in Europe in the near future so there is no chance of the Rover name being used there.

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