FIRSTLY allow me to apologise for not being around to report the events as they arose – I am currently away on business reporting on the Techno Classica motor show in Essen, Germany.
I arrived here late on Wednesday evening with my heart in my mouth – I had heard the reports floating around the press that SAIC were contemplating pulling out of its deal with MG Rover, fearing the Longbridge-based company’s financial situation was in a perilous state.
As it is, we still do not know the real financial situation, but as Wednesday became Thursday, it became apparent that things were pretty grim. Representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry were in China, alongside Phoenix high-ups… their task simple – to try and get SAIC to sign Rover, therefore saving it from the abyss.
Rumours and counter-rumours did the rounds – but each solid statement to emerge from either the government or MG Rover was worse than the previous one. First production and Longbridge was halted – suppliers worried about the company’s solvency. Then we heard that the Phoneix Four would inject their own funds in a last-gasp attempt to encourage the Chinese into staying in the deal.
The real bombshell came last night – Patricia Hewett, the Trade and Industry Secretary stated that MG Rover had gone into liquidation. Just as quickly, Phoenix countered that, by saying MG Rover wasn’t in liquidation, but had simply called in the accountants to clarify its own sitaution.
However, by mid-morning today, I heard the news: MG Rover announced it had called in the administrators – Price Waterhouse Coopers…
Firstly, let me say – this news fills me with massive personal distress – not only have we lost our last grasp on indigenous volume car production, but it’s terrible news for the 6000 workers at Longbridge… After the ceasing of car production at Luton, Dagenham, Browns Lane and now – possibly – Longbridge, the UK has now become a second string automotive nation.
Okay, we still build lots of cars here – but none of them are British – and none of those juicy profits are being ploughed back into a British company.
Perhaps MG Rover’s position is symbolic of British Industry as a whole – Why make things, when we can sell each other services? Yep, a grotesque chain of events over the past fifty years has left Britain nation populated by people flogging each other services, rather than making things we can actually sell to other countries.
Leaving that aside, many, many people angered by this turn of events will be looking for a scapegoat – someone to blame. Many people will want to point accusing fingers at John Towers, at BMW, or perhaps the media… to do so would be to take a very simplistic view of the situation.
In reality none of these factors helped, but did any of them kill the company? The media’s part in this affair was akin to kicking a dying man in the head but the media certainly didn’t kill MG Rover… The same can be said for the Phoenix Four and BMW. Both were well-intentioned in their own ways, but ultimately rather naive.
It is right to be angry about the situation, but don’t look for someone to blame… there are too many factors (most of which you can read about in The Whole Story). Best to take a minute to think about Longbridge’s 6000 workers and their families – let’s hope something good is around the corner for the guys that really matter.