MG Rover has unveiled four new sportier models as its new owners begin the long process of getting the loss making car maker back on the road to profit.
The firm took the wraps off three sports saloon cars codenamed X10, X20 and X30 – and an MG special edition. The glitzy launch comes eight months after the Phoenix Consortium, headed by former Rover boss and current MG Rover chairman John Towers, bought the company for a nominal £10 from German owners BMW.
However, critics argue that Rover is merely sticking the sporty MG badge on its existing range of Rover cars.
The new team believes it can save the Rover brand and remain a volume car maker. Its rival bidder for Rover, venture capital firm Alchemy Partners, believed that the only way the firm could survive in any form was to become a niche car maker concentrating on sporty MG cars.
At the launch in Longbridge, MG Rover’s director of product development Rob Oldaker said the new cars would be “outrageous driving fun”. He said: “These are uncompromising drivers’ cars. They have taut handling and steering. They sit low and ride firmly.
“These cars are for the extrovert, for people who have a zest for life, for people who get switched on by driving a motor car.”
The new MG model ranges will be on sale in the UK in August, at prices ranging from £10,000 to £30,000. The company also unveiled its special edition MGF Trophy which can accelerate from 0-60 in under seven seconds. The new owners hope the MG badge will add some glamour to the battered Rover brand.
The new cars aim to spice up Rover’s tarnished image and help turning the company around. Under BMW’s ownership the UK firm had seen sales slump and losses mount, despite gaining critical acclaim for its Rover 75, the firm’s first new model developed from scratch.
A variety of reasons has been put forward for the slump, but the new owners – led by former Rover boss John Towers – are keen to reintroduce a bit of glamour to the damaged brand. In pursuit of this image makeover, the company plans to race two MG Lola sports cars in the Le Mans 24-hour race in June.
Rover’s sales are already beginning to perk up, with 31% more cars sold in December than in the same month of 1999, according to new registration statistics. The company aims to reach a global sales target of 200,000 cars, boosted by the new sports cars.
But critics say the new cars are not really new at all. They argue that Rover has not done much more than sticking the sporty MG badge on its existing range of Rover cars. This type of re-branding has not been well received by customers in the past.