News : February 2005

MG Rover confirms return to the DTM Series

25 February

MG Rover’s DTM plan originally centred around Rover – now changed in favour of MG. (Picture supplied by Thomas Huybrechts)

AS REVEALED on last December, MG Rover will be returning to the DTM series this year. From April 17, MG saloons will be competing one of the hardest fought saloon car race series there is. If nothing else, the announcement should put everyone’s mind at ease – after all, would the company announce this if it didn’t know there was money coming from China?

The fast, furious and highly competitive series attracts top names such as ex Formula One drivers Mika Hakkinen, Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Allan McNish. Close racing, spectacular overtaking and tight championship battles will be seen by viewers in 175 countries, as well as attracting record numbers of trackside spectators. The 11 race series visits seven circuits in Europe, as well as Istanbul and for the first time, Brno in the Czech Republic.

Hockenheim will mark the return to a series in which great success was enjoyed in 1986. Driver Kurt Thiim won the championship amassing 130 points and collected three wins along the way. This time out, powered by V8 4.0-litre engines developing 500 bhp, the MG-Zytek team will race two MG ZTs.

Speculation is rife over the identity of the new engine’s supplier, but the chances are the 4.0-litre V8 will be supplied by noted engine builder, Zytek.

The Sun in SCOOP Shocker!

11 February

IT’S not often we have to go to Britain’s best loved daily paper, but for once, The Sun leads the way with MG Rover news. This scoop picture, loosed off inside Longbridge shows a concept for the RD/X60, and is something of an evolution from the TCV-like theme we’ve been expecting.

The above image does point at some radical design ideas, and paints a refreshing picture. Rover, it seems, will finally cast off the shackles of its retro design brief, producing what appears to be a very contemporary design, which at least matches the Citroen C4 for modernity.

Of course, it can be assumed this is in no way an official picture, and it may well be unrelated to the final design, but it skips at least two-generations of evolution from the 25 and 45, and that is no bad thing.

No doubt, more information about the car will leak out over the next few months, but for more of what we know about the RD/X60 already, check out our news pages from last August and November.

MG Rover shows wares at RAI2005; the Dutch motor show…

10 February, All photos by Rene Winters

MG Rover gave the 2005 model year MG TF its world premiere in Holland today. CityRover goes on sale, too…

CityRover premiers at RAI
The CityRover will be launched in Holland, in 2005. CityRover is an excellent choice for the urban driving environment and offers a perfect mix of space, performance and equipment, at an attractive price. The ‘Solo’ entry-level model has ABS, power steering and a driver’s airbag.

2005 MG TF & MG TF Oxford SE (special edition)
Best-selling sports car – the MG TF – is now smoother riding and even better equipped for all-round driving performance and pleasure. Revised suspension ensures a more compliant ride and improved handling. The TF’s appeal gets a step up for 2005 and now includes a heated-glass rear window, new alloy wheels and a more stylish interior. The MG TF Oxford SE has a luxury specification, unique to Holland.

MG GT Concept
The spectacular MG GT Concept will be on display on the MG Rover stand during the press day. During public days the GT Concept can be displayed at the Super car Paddock of Autovisie magazine, in the Diamond Lounge.

MG XPower SV
This super sports car is now available in Holland. The car is an important reinforcement for the MG brand.

Rover V8
The Rover 75 V8 four-door saloon is derived from the company’s much-respected large car platform. Driving the rear wheels, the in-line mounted 4.6-litre V8 engine is matched to a smooth automatic transmission to offer refined yet effortless performance entirely in keeping with the long-distance, no object associations of this famous marque. The flagship Rover is clearly identifiable by its full-depth, open grille at the front, reminiscent of the famous Rover P5B

MG TF Coupe Concept looks good alongside the awesome XPower SV.

Rover 75 V8 goes on sale in Holland…

CityRover Turbodiesel confirmed…

09 February

‘DON’T get excited’ they said… the CityRover Turbo is coming this summer, but it’s a blower attached to a diesel power unit. Interestingly, the Fiat Panda Diesel has just hit the market, and is billed as the cheapest diesel available in the UK – so will Rover launch the CR TD to undercut the Fiat? I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

Also, this summer should finally see the announcement of the common rail next-generation version of the L-Series diesel engine, which will slot nicely underneath the bonnet of the 75, thus ending the costly agreement with BMW. Power outputs are not confirmed, and according to sources in Germany, Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) issues were taking time to overcome. However, the plan is for the new unit to hit the market at the same time as the 75’s new dashboard is rolled-out.

MG, also have plans – and following the rather rather subdued roll-out of the usefully improved 2005 TF, we now hear that the Coupe version as previewed in November last year will be definitely going ahead, with the order books opening up during the summer. That should make for some pleasant news after the MGR/SAIC deal is signed in the next couple of months…

News round-up…

07 February

Lookers to ditch MGR franchise

THE publicly-owned Lookers dealer group has taken a “strategic decision” to terminate its dealer franchise contract with MG Rover, reported Motor Trader. In a statement to the Stock Exchange made before any news release was issued, Lookers is said to have advised shareholders it had given MG Rover two years’ notice of termination, in accordance with its franchise agreement, in respect of its four MG Rover franchises.

Lookers announced on 31 January that it had acquired the used car supermarket Bristol Trade Centre, a further diversification from new car franchising following its acquisition of the wholesale parts distributor FPS last year.

TATA Forge ahead – Turbo CityRovers coming to the UK

The Asian Age, Soumendra Sahu

Tata Motors is now pinning its hope on the sale of the Indica hatchback cars in the European market.

The company is now focused on the CityRover project and is studying how the sales can be strengthened. The company will begin exporting left hand drive and turbocharged versions of City Rover shortly. Besides Indica, the company makes the sedan Indigo and its estate version Indigo Marina as well as multi-utility vehicles like Safari and Sumo Victa.

Enthused by the successful launch of its cars in South Africa in October last year, Tata Motors will aggressively scout for new export markets in the coming months as well as strengthen its position in the existing locations. “We need to expand outside the country. We have decided to go to countries where we will have a meaningful presence,” he said. Exports of Tata Motors’ multi-utility vehicles was up 184 per cent in the October-December quarterly period of the current fiscal year against a year-ago period, while other Tata branded passenger vehicles’ sales overseas rose 52 per cent.

Sonalika presses onwards

International Cars & Motors Ltd, a Sonalika group company, would kickstart production of its multi-utility vehicles from May while it has put off the manufacture of passenger cars. “The utility vehicle project is progressing well. We should start production by May,” the company’s Managing Director, D. K. Mittal, told Business Line.

He said though the launch of passenger cars has been put off for sometime, the project is part of the company’s long-term plan. International Cars & Motors has a technical tie-up with the UK-based MG Rover for manufacturing the utility vehicles. MG Rover will provide the entire design of the vehicle. Mittal said these utility vehicles would have two seating configurations, a seven-seater and a 10-seater with two-litre engine.

The plant in Himachal Pradesh has a 24,000-unit-a-year capacity. But initially only about 5,000 units will be produced, some of which will be exported to South-East Asian countries. The Sonalika group has also tied up with Powertrain Ltd, part of the Rover group, to manufacture gearbox and engine units for the models, which are fitted with common rail diesel injection systems.

The current capacity of the plant is around 50,000 units a year. “Tests are currently going on. We should start exporting them by September this year,” Mittal said. The group is investing about Rs 200 crore in these projects. The Powertrain Managing Director, Fraser Welford-Winton, had earlier said that the company would source engine components worth £15 million from this venture in 2006. The Sonalika group is also one of the supply chain partners of Powertrain’s forward common rail diesel powertrain programmes.

The long-term collaboration provides for Sonalika to manufacture a range of powertrain components. The Sonalika group also manufactures tractors through its subsidiary, International Tractors’ Ltd in which Renault Agriculture holds a 20-per-cent stake.


MG Rover marketeers offered ‘jobs of a lifetime’

Offer of lifetime for MG Rover workers Filed on Thu, 03 February, 2005 MG Rover workers have been offered a chance of a lifetime, with an opportunity to move their jobs to Rover’s new operations in Shanghai. 119 workers were asked about a possible move by bosses, as part of cost-cutting at the company.

The move stream-lines work at Longbridge, the only independent UK car company remaining, and sends special skills to where they’re needed. MG Rover stress that there are no redundancies for people who don’t take up the offer. The workers offered new jobs are primarially in the marketing department of the company.

A spokesman for MG Rover told Bromsgove newspaper the Bromsgrove Standard that there was no redeundancy for workers who turned down the offer: “These members of staff have been asked if they would be prepared to work overseas. “We are gauging what the opinion is, and it might be a very small number of employees who say yes,” he continued. The company is trying to save £100 million and break-even at the end of the year, and may also be offering workers a chance to move to South Africa and India in the future.

Joint venture heralds job losses at Longbridge?

Rover deal threatens UK jobs Up to 3,000 face redundancy, production of 75s could go to China.

Unions prepare for ‘bumpy ride’ Oliver Morgan, industrial editor Sunday February 6, 2005 The Observer Fear are growing in MG Rover management that large-scale redundancies at its Longbridge plant are likely, even if the company completes a ‘lifeline’ deal with a Chinese car-maker. Longbridge sources indicate that up to 3,000 of the company’s workforce of more than 6,000 could lose their jobs as part of a joint-venture deal currently under negotiation with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

Introduction of a new small or medium-sized car into Longbridge, which will form part of the agreement, will take up to 18 months. Insiders say that SAIC and Chinese government officials believe that, with sales of existing models falling sharply, cutbacks will be nec essary to keep costs in line with revenues. A Longbridge source said: ‘The Chinese want this resolved as part of a deal so that they avoid redundancy liabilities.’ Asked to comment on the possible redundancies, an MG Rover spokesman said: ‘I have no comment to make.’

He added that MG Rover could offer no guarantee on jobs. Last year, MG Rover won a legal struggle to overturn a ‘jobs for life’ agreement struck in 1997 between former owner BMW and the unions that removed the threat of compulsory redundancy from employees. Any job cuts will meet a ferocious response from unions.

One source said: ‘We are expecting redundancies because of the ending of jobs for life, but not on this scale.’ Last month Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union, said he expected a ‘bumpy ride’ over the next two years, but that a deal would safeguard existing employment levels. The concerns over jobs come as details of negotiations have begun to emerge. Talks have been held in utmost secrecy since November, when John Towers, chairman of MG Rover parent Phoenix Venture Hold ings, said a deal to form a 70:30 joint-venture controlled by the Chinese, was close.

Central to the deal will be the Powertrain engine business, which manufactures the company’s K Series engine. Sources indicate that under the deal, the engine production line will be shipped to China after an agreement to supply engines to Solihull-based Land Rover expires next summer. This will give SAIC access to engine production and development techniques, a key priority in its negotiations with MG Rover. Last month, Powertrain casting equipment was packaged and sent to China as part of an earlier agreement to share technology and intellectual property. The Rover 75 production line is also likely to be shipped to China, where SAIC believes the car will sell well. The line has already been moved once, from Cowley in Oxford to Longbridge, in 2000. MG Rover denies that production of 75s in China means that they will no longer be produced at Longbridge, indicating that options include constructing a second production line.

A spokesman said: ‘We will make an announcement about the whole partnership in due course.’

Rover’s own space is a world of leather…

03 February

Sniff Petrol’s wonderfully humorous slant on the new marketing push from MG Rover…

MG Rover is pushing hard to give the 25 and 45 a significant USP in a crowded and competitive market – and it may well have found it. Offering full-leather as standard on many of its models, it will be pushing hard on the marketing side to get the message across.

It is the first work from new ad agency St Luke’s since it won the account and marks a return to Rover’s focus on product quality and design heritage. The press and radio campaign features Rover’s new ‘Leather as Standard’ offer, whereby all 2005 25 and 45 models come with leather upholstery as standard package.

This campaign principally targets ‘empty nesters’ who are taking advantage of their freedom to choose the kind of life they want to live. This is reflected in the new end line: ”Rover – Your Space” which features in both the press and radio ads. The press campaign, which will appear in national newspapers, Sunday supplements and consumer magazines, uses the values of the marque to create an up-market, aspirational feel to the ads.

The photography, together with the strong black and red colour theme signals ‘a renewed sense of sophistication”, according to the car maker.

Two 40-second radio ads support the leather proposition with a sensual but humorous approach. MG Rover’s director of marketing and product services, Steve Robertson, said: ‘By offering leather as standard… we are creating a unique proposition which will appeal to our target audience.”

The campaign opens on February 4. A new campaign for MG will also launch in February, aiming to reposition the brand and build on its sporting heritage.

That ‘Rotter’ Allegro just won’t go away…

01 February

THE Allegro production line has been created for the BBC’s new drama, ‘The Rotter’s Club’.

Viewers of the current BBC2 drama series The Rotter’s Club may be forgiven for thinking the Longbridge production line had been re-started to produce the Austin Allegro again! In fact these scenes were reconstructed in the Docklands. The cars used were sourced via Pete Gaine, who is regularly called on to supply classic cars for television and film productions. However, a request for half a dozen Allegos at short notice was not so easy to meet. The series is set in 1974, so all the cars had to be early models, that is, those with the infamous Quartic steering wheel!

Allegro Club International was able to help.

Three cars came from the club’s Cars for Sale list, including one formerly owned by club members Peter and Clair Bell. A further four cars came from a collection owned by club member George Beresford. One of these cars is an immaculate 1974 1100 base model ‘discovered’ last year, and with only 4000 miles on the clock. This car is finished in the rare BL Mirage Grey colour, and is original right down to the glue marks where the plastic sheeting that protected the trim had been secured pre delivery!

George’s cars are now safe back in his collection, the rest are up for sale.

The Rotters Club is currently showing on BBC2, Wednesdays at 9pm, repeated on Saturday night at 11pm.

For more information about the Allegro Club International, click on

Keith Adams

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