News : Marseille’s ARG dealer is about to be razed

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The premises of what was once the largest Austin Rover dealer in the south of France are about to be knocked down, three decades after the former dealership enjoyed huge sales success in one of Austin Rover’s best European markets.

Words: Nicolas Roughol Photography: Lionel Sentenac

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According to Lionel Sentenac, an expert in ARG sales history in France, especially in the south of France, Austin Rover Méditerranée, was something of a local landmark, after it took on the ARG franchise in 1987. It became a specialist in the British cars after years of being a Renault dealership.

The dealer has been through a number of iterations over the years – when the Austin name disappeared from the French new car lists in 1990, three years after the UK, it was renamed Auto Rover Méditerranée. When BMW broke up the Rover Group in 2000, the dealer unsuccessfully sued MG Rover and BMW. It cited breach of contract, after Rover France had renewed the whole dealership network in 1998, introducing new contracts for both Rover and Land Rover.

Links with the UK company were severed completely in 2003 after relationships broke down with MG Rover. After that, the dealer took on a Hyundai franchise, but finally went bankrupt a few years later. The whole place is now awaiting demolition, to make room for a housing project nearby – as can be seen from the image below, the green and blue Austin Rover chevrons are still partially there…

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12 Comments

  1. Clever use of language there (really sad/sad moment)!

    Unfortunately it’s the way of the world these days, but it seems the writing was on the wall in 2003….

  2. I suppose they were flying the flag for a while at least. “Auto Rover Mediterranee” actually sounds a good trading name.

  3. France was quite a big market for British Leyland/ Austin Rover. I remember the last time I was there in 1983 and Minis, Metros and diesel Rover SD1s being a common sight. In particular the Mini had been a big success in France since the sixties as French motorists, particularly in cities, appreciated its low running costs and easiness to park. Also the Metro was pitched right at the Renault 5 market and offered similar running costs.

    • I saw a Rover metro last weekend – nothing unusual in that – except I was in a taxi on the Paris Périphérique.

  4. I wonder how many Austin Rover cars survive in France as the lack of rain and mild winters in the south mean rust won’t be a problem. I was in the South in 1983 and the amount of ancient Citroen 2CVs, Simcas and corrugated Citroen vans from the sixties that were still running was amazing as in Britain most cars of this age would have been killed by rust. Yet I suppose the lack of parts for cars that were last imported over 10 years ago could have seen many scrapped by now.

  5. @ Richard 16378, it’s the dry weather that keeps them going and many of the old school French designs were mechanically simple, so could be kept going for as long as possible. I’d think a Citroen 2CV or original Renault 5 would be in its element on the southern French coast, particularly the 2CV as it was air cooled and wouldn’t boil over in hot weather.
    Also I wonder if Fiat’s rust problem in Britain in the seventies and early eighties might have had something to do with them only rustproofing their cars for Southern European conditions and not Britain and northern Europe. Just a thought, not fact.

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