Blog: So, Jaguar killed Rover?


READ an interesting piece in AUTOCAR today by Hilton Holloway stating that one of the factors that caused irrepairable damage to Rover was having Jaguar in the fold during those all-important years in the early Seventies. The founder of that company, Sir William Lyons, sat on the BL Board, and although he helped preside over the corporation, his heart lay with Jaguar.

And with that agenda at the forefront of his mind, the last thing he wanted for his beloved Jags was internecine competition from in-house rivals at Rover. So, the Rover P8 was killed, after oh-so nearly getting into production, because it came into direct conflict with the Jaguar XJ6 (in fact, had it not been for the introduction of the LWB version of the XJ, the Rover would have probably been given the nod for production). The P9 was also culled, and BL’s supercar interests were served with the Jaguar XJ-S instead.

Looking back, it is easy to see that Jaguar’s interests were given precedence over Rover’s.

the Rover P8 was killed, after
oh-so nearly getting into
production, because it came
into direct conflict with
the Jaguar XJ6.

Imagine if the P8 and the XJ had been produced. BL would have had an unrivalled line-up in the super-saloon class. Rover’s offering acting as the luxury cruiser, while the XJ offering a sportier alternative.

The harsh reality was that BL had a lot more pressing problems than those in the upper reaches of the market. Had the P8 and XJ ended up competing in largely the same market, then it could have worked. Or is more likely the case, it would have suffered from the same issues that VAG is suffering from, offering the Audi A8 and the Volkswagen Phaeton. Yes, they offer a different range of appeals, but they are still rivals. So, in all – possibly a nor-so-wise model policy. Yes, Mercedes-Benz is perhaps making it work now with the CLS and S-class models, but the jury is out as to whether one will steal sales from the other.

So, yes, Jaguar did stop Rover from pressing forwards with a potentially world beating model line-up (although I have my doubts – the P8’s styling was not particularly effective), but does anyone blame BL for this model rationalization? After all, it’s only what should have been done in the middle-market. I mean, what other company at the time had so many completely different cars on sale with engine capacities between 1300cc and 1600cc? Exactly…

No, Jaguar didn’t kill Rover. Being in BL did…

Keith Adams


  1. Trouble was that the P8 was a death trap as crash testing revealed. To remedy that at such a late stage would have meant spending even yet more money and take even more time. Sadly the P8 had to go. That Jaguar had a lwb XJ was handy in it meant that the large(ish) sedan market could be covered. This was a rationalisation which ought to have come years earlier than it did. The best approach would have been to start the SD-1 earlier and get some of the P8 features included in the top line versions (suspension for one). Meanwhile the down market stuff urgently needed attention (rationalisation, culling, logical medium and long term strategy, imposition of some quality etc.), but no…..

  2. Would have to agree yet can see Jaguar was merely trying to protect its own interests within BL.

    What did not helped matters which largely predated BL, was a combination of William Morris refusing to endorse Miles Thomas’s plan to invest / modernize the Nuffield Group (like Leonard Lord did at Austin) and BMC not rationalizing down its portfolio of marques down to about 4 (e.g. Austin, Morris, MG and Vanden Plas).

    Jaguar would have been better off at Leyland instead of BMC (with Rover going to the latter), where they would only have Triumph at best to deal with as opposed to a plethora of other marques and competing interests at BMC later BL.

    • A pair groupings like that would have made more sense, though a combined Jaguar / Leyland would have quite a few commercial brands to it’s name.

  3. It might have met opposition from the unions and the Labour government of the time, but there should have been a big rationalisation at British Leyland in the mid seventies, and the business left with Austin for the bread and butter cars, Triumph for sports cars, Rover for executive cars, and Jaguar for luxury cars. It was clear by the mid seventies, Morris and MG were going nowhere and Triumphs saloons competed too much with other Leyland products.

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