Martin Halliwell worked for the Rover Group in Cowley during the 1990s, and saw some interesting changes at the company. Sparked by our recent update of the Rover R3 development story, he shares his thoughts on the relationship between the Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander.
The Honda Rover collaboration story has been well told in these pages. In any kind of industrial relationship like this only a naïve uncoordinated partner would not learn or want to learn from the other.
Thus communication, between parties must be well controlled and focused only on the agreed projects. This was particularly important for Rover and Honda because they were competitors in the same sectors.
In the case of Rover XX programme, this communication was by fax and Honda controlled their responses very accurately – if you asked a question that you had asked before, they would point you to the date and time of their original response! This happened a lot…
Formal became informal
As later projects progressed working relationships developed and more informal inter-company communication was common. In 1994 this communication went badly wrong.
At this time product data management was in its infancy, data was held by part number and was structured by programme – like a big filing cabinet full of drawings. A computer-aided design data specialist was asked to supply data to Honda on specific projects. This person also supplied the body data for CB40. This may have been a mistake or careless, but once done it could not be undone.
Now, I don’t know how much Honda knew about Rover’s SUV proposals, but they must have been discussed at a high level within the companies. With the body data for CB40 Honda now knew an awful lot more…
Honda’s gift from Rover?
The CB40 team were aware of this disclosure and were stunned when the Honda CR-V was released a whole year ahead of their product because it was exactly the same product. Same size, same package, same configuration – even down to the side-hinged tailgate with spare wheel. It was as if Honda had copied CB40.
The rest, as they say is history. The Honda CR-V is the world’s best-selling SUV and is one of that company’s most successful products.
It is possible that this was Rover’s biggest contribution to Honda. We will never know…