Blog : Whither Rover’s return?

William Meek

MY16 Range Rover Evoque

With the news that Tata Motors Limited (owners of the thriving Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC) and PSA Peugeot Citroën (owners of Peugeot, Citroën and the newly spun-off DS Automobiles brand) are joining forces, for those of us who lament the sad events at Longbridge in 2005, there is only one question: whither Rover’s return?

Consider that Peugeot has a range of fairly successful hatchbacks – in particular, the 208 and 308 are said to be something of a return to the x05 and x06 eras. The 508 and Citroën C5 have been slow sellers, and PSA didn’t manage to convince GM to partner the Insignia replacement with a shared platform.

The DS range has been a surprise success, cashing in on the wake of MINI. One of the main criticisms of DS5 was that it had particularly harsh suspension – a charge that should never be levelled against (what was) a big Citroën. Their SUV line-up is made up of some crossovers derived from the hatchback range, but no real 4×4 at the top end of their ranges.

On the Tata side, there are Jaguar which makes brilliantly comfortable and sporting saloons (indeed, the nicely balanced handling-comfort properties of the Peugeot 406 were once compared to a Jaguar’s) and Land Rover which are dedicated 4×4 specialists, moving ever up market. Yet anything below premium is missing from the two marques’ line-up.

Thus, it becomes evident where they can scratch each other’s backs. Citroën-Peugeot-DS gain larger platforms, access to expertise in comfort and handling and 4×4 SUV technology. Tata gains a range of smaller FWD hatchback platforms. However, would it be right that Jaguar descend down below XE size? It did work for BMW (1-Series, the i3 electric car), Audi (A1, A3) and Mercedes-Benz (A-Class), but perhaps it would be better to resurrect our old friend Rover for such vehicles – DS-style vehicles, comfortable, stylish and modern.


Keith Adams
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  1. There is a place for the Rover brand as it was never a mainstream one but not a premium one in the Jaguar sense.

    It was always a halfway house in the Volvo mould. After all, BL were keen to keep it that way to prevent it stealing Jaguar’s thunder!

    • The original Rover Company produced cars which post WW2 most certainly were premium brands, the P4 and later the P5 3 litre and 3.5 litre P5B being regarded at the time as rather classier than the Jaguar equivalents which in the 1950s and 1960s were always regarded as rather nouveau riche . It was only later that Rover went down market, and that was when the trouble started. However, the trouble is that no one really remembers the old Rover brand now as having an unrivalled air of class

      • Exactly! And let’s not forget that Rover went down market due to a (rubbish) management decision! Can anyone imagine any other manufacturer that would deliberately downgrade a marque at the peak of its reputation like Rover was in the end of 1960’s?
        The term “undermine” comes into my mind…

        • Yeah, it’s kind of weird that the Rover brand was once used on a favourite luxury conveyance of the Queen and PMs and, as late as the 1980s, had ambitions of being a BMW rival… and then ended up on a 1.1 litre supermini before becoming a byword for irrelevance and failure. That’s pretty shocking brand management.

      • I agree, Rover was Britain’s Mercedes. Jaguar was a kind of four door Porsche, a flash car for the nouveau-riche. Harold Wilson in a P5, George Best in an E-type.

        The slide started in the 70swhen they were boxed in by Jaguar within the BL Empire, then Graham Day tried to turn them into BMW, everyone knows Triumph was Britain’s BMW, not Rover.

  2. I think it would be great news if they brought back the Rover car brand even after all the Longbridge Crisis over a Decade ago now the Rover brand is still still fondly remembered.

  3. The best way for a revived Rover to complement the current JLR brands is to use it fill the one obvious gap with what would essentially be a range of Range Rover hatchbacks and fastbacks (possibly crossovers) covering all segments from superminis upwards, irrespective of what platforms may be available.

  4. if I were JLR I’d actually more inclined to bring Daimler back to take on Rolls Royce and Bentley. Two models would make a lot of sense. Firstly a Jaguar XJ based luxury car. Think Bentley rivalling luxury limo priced from 150,000 plus. And then secondly a Range Rover based super luxury SUV priced at 200,000 plus. JLR have the components to make it happen. So why not?

    A Rover revival would be great. But the way I’d do it would be by building something along the lines of the TCV concept off the XF floorpan. The target customer being Volvo drivers. Could JLR do the samething and make more money using the Range Rover brand? Possibly but why dillute the brand?

  5. Do JLR have the rights to the Rover name ?

    I know the firm is called Jaguar Land Rover, but as I understand it, they can only use Land Rover, not Rover. I know it sounds stupid but a lot of this brand name stuff is. I thought BMW retained various BMC brand names when they sold off MG Rover. The Chinese buyers of MG Rover after the bankruptcy thought they had Rover in the bag, but didn’t, so had to invent Roewe

    • Yes, all Rover trademarks are owned by Jaguar Land Rover Limited and have been for some time. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that Ford had first refusal on them from BMW if anything happened to MGR, and so they did, and the trademarks were included with the sale of JLR to Tata.

    • Daimler-Benz has no connection with , or rights over , the British Daimler, which was created nearly 115 years ago !

      • Actually they do. The Daimler Motor Company was the British owner of the Daimler trademark that was acquired from Gottlieb Daimler and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in 1896. In 2007 Jaguar reached an agreement with Daimler AG to allow the latter to use Daimler as a corporate and trading name only.

      • No, the Daimler in both company names refers to the same: Both used Gottlieb Daimler’s engines to power their vehicles. So they do have a connection, even if this has been quite a long time ago.

    • Well, no, they weren’t. What happened was that the infamous Harry Lawson, who was a fraudster who set up the British Motor Syndicate, bought the worldwide permanent rights to use the Daimler name on UK built cars . There was no connection between the two entities and indeed Daimler Benz and the Daimler Company went in completely different directions, with the British companyusing avant garde technology for much of its independent history, such as the Knight patent sleeve valve engines, and of course the preselector box from the late 20s to the 1950s

  6. TATA and PSA eh?
    When i first read about it i also had some thoughts about Rover revival, but not about the Rover R8 – Peugeot link that everyone is thinking of.

    As an owner of a Rover P6 and a current Citroen C5, i smilled because i was always thinking of the old Rover company and the Citroen to have much more in common than it was apparent. Both were not afraid of the technical innovations, manufacturers primarily of big comfortable saloons, that had also a steady foot on the utilitarian market with Land Rover and 2CV/Ami/Dyane respectively. When i explain various technical details of the P6 to Citroen DS owners, they always agree that the thinking paths of the two companies in those days were rather close. As a result of all the above i choose the C5 as a modern P6 equivalent and i was not dissapointed.
    I would really like to see in the future a common big Citroen – revived Rover car, but i doubt that something like this would be enough realistic.

    • I couldn’t agree more – Rover in the 1960’s were very similar to Citroen in many ways. I own a P5B which was the pre-cursor to the much more modern P6, but even the P5 had some fairly adventurous engineering for 1958 compared to its rivals – torsion bar front suspension, disc brakes and a minimalist dashboard.

      I also doubt that Rover will ever be revived – to most people in 2015 the name just means old fashioned and dull. The 800 restyle that added the grille has much to answer-for (even though I did quite like it at the time) – instead of helping revive a premium brand by temporarily harking-back to better times, it became a mantra that transformed into a millstone for the company.

      • I love the P5 Rover’s. Had a chance to buy one when I was 21 and looking to buy a Viva. In a showroom was a P5 in Zircon blue + cream leather trim etc (ex company Directors car?) Was only £795, but at the time of the oil crisis meant it would be too big and expensive for me to run… and insure!

  7. DS has huge brand value based on fond memories of the 1955 Citroen DS – considered the best car France has ever made. Rover died a terrible traumatic death 10 years ago after being on life support for at least 5 years before. Its badge was fixed to a mix of Frankenstein cars cobbled together from bits of old Hondas and Maestros with an engine design that dated back over 15 years and could do nothing except blow head gaskets. The British Car industry has well and truly moved on since then. There is no place for the Rover badge unless it has Land in front of it. Why would Jaguar Land Rover who have invested Billions in product and marketing to get where they are today want or need to spend a fortune trying to resurrect a brand most people would rather forget? It would be completely pointless.

    • I’m not sure how much value the DS brand has, as at the moment nobody sees it as separate to Citroen.
      The DS3 was a great success because it was a brilliantly styled small hatch, that really tapped a market for a stylish, non retro premium small call.
      The DS4 and DS5 are far less successful, the new C4 Cactus is selling much better than either.

      JLR will need to replace the transverse engined Disco Sport/Evoque at some point, maybe they will jointly develop a FWD/4WD platform with PSA that will also give PSA something bigger than their new platform under the 308?

  8. Funny that Rover and DS are brought up as potential partners in a Tata/PSA alliance. I was just watching ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and noticed how a Citroen DS and Rover P6 both appear in a scene. Avantgarde 1960s European cars apparently represent space age Caprican road transport, fitting like a glove amidst all the chrome robots.

    Autocar claims that JLR is already planning a “low-slung” electric Range Rover crossover, which sounds a lot more like a Rover than a Range Rover. Small and compact luxury cars are now important markets, but to build the brand, something like the above Tesla-fighter might be better for a reborn Rover to start with. It’s meaningfully different enough from Jaguar to be worth selling under the other brand (ie. Land Rover), while also being road-focused enough to be a separate sub-brand of Land Rover (ie. Rover).

  9. Why not Rover what about Triumph?, let’s forget all this b******s about a brand why not just aim at producing a quality small & medium car such as a modern Dolomite & Triumph 2000 a sort of car rather more classy than Ford & Vauxhall offerings the XE platform could be used for the new 2000 & maybe platform share with BMW 2 series/Mini FWD platform for the smaller car. The trick is to produce a good product at a keen price and with good customer support,rather like the VW group has with Skoda

    • Hear hear. Far too much focus on brands these days over product (caused by most people being stupid, and stupid people buy a badge not a car).

  10. Survey of British opinions on China today (Torygraph or Grauniad I think), asked which of a list of Chinese-owned British companies people thought might be Chinese, including “MG Rover”… perhaps that shows how unlikely the return of the Rover name is?

    In happier news, BMW has launched a 5-series “Maestro” special edition. Lucky Chinese, they can now not only buy a brand new Maestro-based car, they can get a brand new badge to match!

  11. Damn! We nearly got to the bottom of the page and right on cue, we get another irrelevant rant about blown head gaskets. Some of the contradictions in the negative comments are laughable.

    That one bit of nonsense aside, it’s refreshing to hear some positive thoughts about how the Rover name could be revived. If the Dacia, Skoda and Hyundai names can shake off their early reputations and become best selling quality cars, there’s no reason why JLR can’t do the same with the Rover name. Just needs a wee bit bravery and belief

    • Dacia, Skoda and Hyundai names shook off their early reputations and become best selling quality cars because that’s exactly what they now are. They started off cheap and cheerful and climbed the ladder through real and sustained improvements. Why would any car company want to relaunch a brand like Rover when it would be starting off with all it’s existing negative connotations ? The only way for a brand like Rover to be successful would be to come back into the market where Dacia, Skoda and Hyundai started – ie near the bottom – and concentrate on building a reputation for value and quality.

      Only problem is it would take 10, 15, 20 years.

      Probably the only brand that’s been successfully launched near the top of it’s market segment and stayed there has been Lexus. That brand had no negative baggage to overcome but it still wasn’t a given that it would be a successful strategy.

      • When did you last see a new Lexus in the UK ? ( Except perhaps one of those stupid tractor things ) . Furthermore, you cannot even give away used ones . And even more so, when did you ever see a Lexus in Europe ? But your general point is a good one – it is very difficult indeed to launch a product near the top of any market

        • Lexus sell very well in the US, as do larger Toyotas, Hondas, Subarus, Infinits etc

          It’s curious how they can be so successful in the US, but not in Europe where the successful Japanese cars are small to medium cars. Honda sell hundreds of thousands of Accords over there every year, while giving up over here

          • Well, the Europeans were led to believe that they ought to buy “premium” german cars…

        • I saw one parked up at the weekend but it turned out to be a Ninfiniti.
          I’ve seen so few of either i can’t tell the apart.

        • I’ve seen a lot of Lexus’s around. There are almost as common as some of the smaller Mercs and BMs. Lexus lost their way in styling a few years ago and became very bland and anonymous, but the new models are more noticeable and I quite like them.

  12. In my opinion if JLR/Tata decide to bring back the Rover marque it will be as a mid market brand targeting the likes of Ford and Vauxhall. It makes sense in my head if they were to run it as part of a three brand structure with Tata as the value brand. Although for that to happen there would have to be a huge increase in production capacity as if Halewood is anything to go by then the existing plants are at the upper limits of their capabilities. Access to any any spare capacity in PSA plants may help a bit but I can’t see them wanting another competitor in their key market.

  13. Looking back I think Rover were going in the right direction with the Acclaim to R8 [first 214/216] era, then messed up with over pricing under sizing the 1999 200. Many R8s are still looking presentable, easily equalling Golf mk3s.

  14. No body could have pridicted the success of the Mini brand so maybe Rover does have a


    I own a DS3, It is not a perfect car but it has buckets of character something we lost

    with the demise of Rover.

    • Agreed, the DS3 shows that launching a brand (or sub-brand in this case) in the upper reaches of its segment can be done, just like Fiat have achieved with the 500. But, and this is key, the cars themselves have to prove themselves as having substance to back-up the image, and this takes time and more than just marketing.

      The DS3 managed it through a combination of style, character and very acceptable quality for it’s sector. But the DS4 and DS5 didn’t.

      The DS4 is just another slightly quirky Citroen.

      The DS5 looked as though it had what it needed, striking design inside and out and I really wanted to buy one until I got touchy-feely with one. Thent the jiggly ride and cheap feeling interior fittings turned me right off and will ensure it will never be a contender in the 3 series / C-Class premium sector it’s aiming for.

  15. I don’t buy this idea of the DS being a distinct badge separate from Citroen. To most people they are just a Citroen DS. Also most people under 40 in the UK won’t rememember the original DS models anyway so I’m confused as to this so called brand value. If you are in the market for a funky small hatch, I’d go for a mini. They have a huge brand value where as DS has virtually non.

    Our local Peugeot garage has recently closed down I assume because there is not a single model in the Peugeot range that has any character and these days the Korean cars are far better value. Who actually buys Peugeots these days?

    I personally can’t see the Peugeot badge lasting outside France. They are almost irrelevant now.

    Also, much as I’d like to see Rovers back on the road, JLR would be mad to revive a badge that carries so much baggage. You never know but I’d say it’s very unlikely. For comparison you only need to look at the dismal failure to revive the MG badge.

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