LAST year, the Audi A4 production line was lifted-and-shifted to Spain, where the five-year old car was slightly revised to become the SEAT Exeo – and, in doing so, continue to generate income for the Volkswagen-Audi Group. It’s a devilishly simple plan and one that clearly demonstrates the excellence of cars produced in the last ten years or so – even an end-of-life vehicle like the old Audi A4 can prove useful in today’s market when properly presented and marketed.
The initial driving impressions have been favourable, especially when tempered by SEAT’s expected bargain pricing policy. Could it be the perfect product for these financially straitened times and a more than suitable alternative to a loaded Chevrolet Epica or Kia Magentis?
Funnily enough, Rover designers, under Richard Woolley, did pen an 800 replacement based on the E34 – called ‘Flashpig’ – but it didn’t get very far before being dropped for the R40 (nee RD1)
The launch of the SEAT Exeo has, though, started me thinking – what if Rover and BMW had dropped the Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome that permeated Rover, swallowed their corporate pride, and allowed Longbridge to build an BMW E34-based Rover 800 replacement? Priced to undercut the 1998-generation 5-Series, and slot in the marketplace at the same point as the 1998 Rover 75, would Rover have had a winner on its hands? Or would Rover have then been percieved as a budget brand selling BMW off-cuts? Funnily enough, Rover designers, under Richard Woolley, did pen an 800 replacement in the early 1990s based on the E34 – called ‘Flashpig’ – but it didn’t get very far before being dropped for the R40 (nee RD1).
More importantly, would the money saved not developing the Rover 75 have been put to better use on the R30 (development of which could have also been shared with the MINI and perhaps a FWD BMW Compact) and seen Rover through to success in later years, instead of being left with the lame-duck 25 and 45 at the turn of the millennium? Looking at the market now – BMW could have done worse than had a successful, streamlined, Rover (and MINI) in its portfolio.
Does anyone fancy Photoshopping one for us?
We’ll see if it works for SEAT… and, if it does, there’s another imponderable to ponder…