Our Cars : Bini ‘First’ joins the fleet

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

MINI First - the first new car ever to join the AROnline fleet
MINI First – the first new car ever to join the AROnline fleet

Given the general love for Bangernomics motoring – preferably with a British flavour – around here, it might seem more than a little odd that an R56-generation MINI is joining the fleet. Especially as this one had 17 miles on the clock, and my name was the first on the V5C logbook when I picked it up from Wollaston MINI in Northampton on 23 December. But this one was bought under interesting circumstances…

Let’s just say that this one isn’t a typical AROnline fleet car. It’s been bought for ‘er indoors as a Christmas present, as a sensible daily alternative to ‘her’ Saab 900T16S, and my way of thanking her for being a diamond for putting up with me during the three-and-a-half long months of recovery since my return – bust and dented – from Romania. There was no question of buying anything other than British, and as an MG6 hadn’t floated her boat when I last had one in (and the company didn’t seem that interested in selling me one), I went straight for a MINI, speccing up an entry-level ‘First’ with the essential optional metallic paint and air conditioning (and nothing else) for a very good deal in the run-up to Christmas.

On Christmas morning, it was an absolute joy seeing her unwrap the keyfob and ‘ring – and look at it in a puzzled way – before being led out to the front of the house with the comment ‘enjoy, it’s yours’. The look on her face, and her speechlessness, was worth all the tea in China. Yes, I think she was pleased…

Anyway, to the car itself: what’s to say, really. Despite its (relatively) modest price, the First seems as well screwed together and thoroughly engineered as any other MINI I’ve driven – and although it lacks the flashy chrome exterior trim and colour-keyed interior that you’ll find on more ostentatious examples of the breed you don’t get the sense it’s pared down in any important sense. The 1.6-litre pulls well (despite a very modest output of 75bhp), and the six-speed ‘box is a delight to use. As is the steering and all round demeanour of the car. It’s going to make an interesting comparison to the Suzuki Swift I’m currently running on long-term for Diesel Car magazine.

As for the dealer experience, it was top notch, although they probably could have done with an easier negotiator. I’m hoping they won’t see much of me – and the car – at all, although with the TLC package of fixed service and breakdown costs, it should be a financially painless experience if they do. It’s really too soon to add many more experiences than this – I literally drove it home and handed it over… and I’ll no doubt keep you posted about its progress (and what bits we add to it) over the coming months.

But I suspect I won’t be getting much opportunity to drive it myself!

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

80 Comments

  1. Only issues I have had with my 2009 John Cooper Works in 13000 miles is the noise that comes from the door trim, clutch replacement and a knackered hpfp.

    Otherwise a decent runabout with average power but with understeer worse than a yanktank.

  2. What a fantastic present!

    R56 is a great car, and is tribute to the huge investment that BMW have made in the UK car production. If only MG Rover had been left this car as a legacy, they may have still been with us.

  3. Arghhhh metalic paint, the one thing that would possibly be below ‘tractor engine’ in my personal list of desirable options if I ever bought a new car.. nice choice though

  4. That’s exceedingly generous, Keith!!

    Only a momentary lapse of Compulsive Heap Purchase Disorder I hope. (think I’ve remembered the name of the condition correctly)

    As Ian points out above things would most likely have been very different had MG Rover been left MINI. Ok, the company would hardly have been cash rich but they would have probably managed a 45 replacement and coupled with other resourceful model revisions the company would likely still be trading today. Ah well…………….

  5. ” If only MG Rover had been left this car as a legacy, they may have still been with us. ”

    If they couldn’t make it with the (potentially much more profitable) brand new 75, a better production line and paint shop than Cowley, a huge interest free loan, a very large inventory of unsold cars and a price of £10, I don’t see how having the MINI too and ultimately, taking Cowley down with them as well, would have helped anyone other than further increasing the value of the remuneration fund for the Phoenix Four!

    What a very nice present and I’m glad that she really liked it. It’s a MINI; I bet you both find it impossible not to modify it!! I’ll give those steel wheels and wheel trims a month 😉

  6. Agree John, MINIs success has had much to do with BMWs management of the brand and continuous investment in new models. Left to the buffoons at MG Rover the original “New” Mini would have remained on sale long past its sell by date and MGRs collapse would have been around 2007 instead of 2005. But as you say, the old pension fund may have looked a little healthier.

  7. Nice colour. Now then, when are we going to do the side-by-side test with the Italian (but Polish built) version that’s nearly half the engine size, has half the cylinders and a turbo 😉

    It’s nice to see MINI catering a bit more for the lower end of the market – no doubt through a bit of pressure from our Italian friends in the market place. I almost feel like a traitor for buying an eye-tie motor now :-p

  8. Interesting to speculate how the MINI would have fared under continued MG Rover ownership. I suspect it wouldn’t have done anything like as well – not that for any reason I think it would have been inferior as a product, just that even if you had two identical products, the “magic BMW halo” means so much to so many people.
    For me it works the otherway round. I’ve not driven a MINI (I have an old Mini) but I suspect its a very fine product that the guys at Cowley should be very proud of – I just have this overwhelming prejudice against BMW and its hideous range of halfwitted cars!

  9. Keith, PS: I owned a new R50 Cooper from 6/04 and then a new R53 Cooper S from 2/07 (the last one in the country!) until 5/10 and loved them both. Only the need for more space finally made us move on. Hope that you enjoy yours as much as we enjoyed ours!

  10. A very nice Xmas present Keith. From memory, I recall the Cortina MK3 & 4 / 1.6 litres in the 70s were also 75bhp and seemed to do the job well enough – so a MINI 1.6 should cope well! I’m intrigued that a 1.6 litre car has a 6 speed box but guess it’s cheaper to standardize across the range.

  11. She’s a lucky lady!

    It also makes a pleasant change to see a new MINI without massive bling wheels, different coloured roof and bonnet stripes – the design looks so much more pure without unnecessary add-ons. Round here (Leeds) loads of people have new MINIs, and virtually every single one has the roof and stripe option ticked, no doubt in a misguided attempt to be individual! I saw a standard MINI One the other day though in an Old English White colour and it looked fantastic as it was, without trying to turn it into yet another Cooper replica. Kudos to you Keith for doing the same!

  12. I’ve got to disagree with you there Steve! A MINI that hasn’t been tastefully modded looks unfinished or, worse still, like a lease car! 😉 Bring on the tasteful mods!

  13. John – comment 6

    No, I reckon having MINI and 75 could have made all the difference. A planned three model range with only one in need of replacement is very different from two out of three models being very close to retirement!

  14. @ Andy:

    I agree with you on this.

    If for any reason I was looking to buy one (which I am not), it would be in the knowledge that such a purchase would be supporting British manufacturing jobs (a very important criteria for me), has good fuel economy and strong residual values.

  15. Nice buy Keith
    I wuz one of the MINI’s harshest and vitriolic critics when it came out , but a friend has an estate version and the thought that has gone into the most minor details and functions is mindblowing .

  16. “my 2009 John Cooper Works”
    “Otherwise a decent runabout with average power”

    So if the JCW has ‘average power’, then the First must be atrociously gutless?

  17. David:

    And if that had failed, I’m guessing that any subsequent failure could have been blamed on BMW not handing over the pressings plant at Swindon and the engine production plant at Hamms Hall either. Then, after that,it might have been BMW’s “failure” to continue to inject yet further cash into the project.

  18. Great pressie and I hope it runs well for her. Look forward to the updates and well done for buying a British built product!

  19. Just got rid of my 2nd MINI Cooper Convertible, bought it for September 1st 2011 for £27k the same MINI dealer gave £15k for it on December 4th, i would never have another, this is the second MINI rejected for faults in the last year, the first one had over 30 visits to the dealer the 2nd one had 10 visits, never again : (

  20. Marinast, perhaps you might be well advised to make yourself more familiar with the all of the UK genuine manufacturing jobs that are provided by the “Quant family” in the UK. To save you having to look it up, that’s around 3,700 in Cowley, 1,000 each in Hamms Hall and Swindon and a further 1,000 at Rolls Royce in Goodwood. Perhaps buying one of their world class, UK built, cars in return isn’t such a bad idea.

  21. Lot of if’s and but’s about what would have happened if Cowley hadn’t been annexed from Longbridge.

    There are loads of variables in there. For example, there are folk who were brand-loyal to Austin/Rover/MG who probably haven’t bought a MINI due to the BMW factor. Undeniably true. Likewise, there are others who will have bought it because it has the BMW ‘halo’ as someone described it. Take away one and add the other, and I would say the MGR stewardship would slightly edge it. As someone said, a 3-model range with the MINI, 75 and a midrange would have been easily manageable and could have made the company profitable.

    At the end of the day, it is still being built on the site of the old Morris factory by 2nd and 3rd generation members of families who worked on the Morris Mini and classic Mini (read Simon Garfield’s book if you don’t believe me).

    The one positive that would have come out of continued MGR/ARG ownership would have been the lack of nonsense like the Coupe, Countryman, Paceman, Scooter etc etc and that any ‘evolution’ would have been more sympathetic to the heritage of the original. While BMW have, admnittedly, been superb in selling the car, their teatment of the name has been questionable to a lot of people.

    It’s easy to criticise the P4 for what happened to MGR, but losing the MINI left them with no gilt-edged asset or product to sell and virtually sealed their fate from then on in. With no tangible real estate, IPR’s owned by others and no JV partner the end result was inevitable.

    Just out of interest, did the Government get any money back from BMW when they flogged Rover off? I would have thought there would have been some sort of payback needed if they disposed of them within a certain timescale. 6 years seems very short in terms of their ownership….

  22. Paul T:

    ” It’s easy to criticise the P4 for what happened to MGR, but losing the MINI left them with no gilt-edged asset or product to sell and virtually sealed their fate from then on in. With no tangible real estate, IPR’s owned by others and no JV partner the end result was inevitable.

    Just out of interest, did the Government get any money back from BMW when they flogged Rover off? I would have thought there would have been some sort of payback needed if they disposed of them within a certain timescale. 6 years seems very short in terms of their ownership…. ”

    MGR started with Real Estate (in terms of ownership of the Longbridge site) which they sold from under the company and then leased back, effectively incurring massive interest charges and keeping the company afloat only in the short term. By the time that they were looking for a JV partner, they had very little to offer any third party manufacturer in terms of design skills that weren’t readily available to anyone in the marketplace; completely different to the days of Honda cooperation.

    Remember that HM government sold Rover to BAe, who then sold it for a substantial profit to BMW virtually 5 years to the day, after they had bought it and largely asset stripped the site at Cowley.

    BMW bough the remains from BAe at a very high price and lots multi millions thereafter. They owe HM Government nothing.

  23. In addition, they had plenty of IP rights to start with, which they sold off to the Chinese, for an absolute song, in some of the most incompetent negotiation ever seen!

  24. John – comment 19

    I’m not adopting a blame BMW stance. My blame for the final collapse of MGR lies more with the Government. They should have realised that BMW had already invested a lot of money and were on the verge of turning Rover into a smaller but successful company. In short, the Government should have injected the last shot of aid to keep BMW at the helm and allow Rover to become a self sufficient niche manufacturer. BMW were so close to acheiving this. A shot of state aid would have seen them through exhange rate difficulties and falling sales of 25, 45.

    However, having decided to pull out, BMW would have given the Phoenix Four a far greater chance of success had they passed on a complete car company as opposed to a car plant. A much better start for MGR if they had kept (i)MINI, (ii)ownership of the Rover name,(iii) more design & development facilities and (iv) the 75 production line in place!

  25. David:

    I agree that more should have been done to keep BMW in place at Longbridge and that the Government’s position was far too little, too late.

    I think we need to agree to disagree over the fate of Cowley; I’m just glad it’s still there.

  26. “At the end of the day, it is still being built on the site of the old Morris factory”

    Not quite, they’re made at the old Pressed Steel plant which was across the road from the old Morris works. The pressed steel plant was renovated in the 90’s and converted to car assembly. The old Morris plant was then sold off. (by BAe)

  27. “However, having decided to pull out, BMW would have given the Phoenix Four a far greater chance of success had they passed on a complete car company as opposed to a car plant. A much better start for MGR if they had kept (i)MINI, (ii)ownership of the Rover name,(iii) more design & development facilities and (iv) the 75 production line in place!”

    or they could have just shut the whole thing down, which was their plan initially.

  28. Dennis – “or they could have just shut the whole thing down, which was their plan initially”

    How did it all go so wrong? As I understand, BMW acquired Rover Group with optimism and enthusiasm. They got as far as 75 ready for launch, MINI all but complete and 55 well on the way. What caused the turn to an attitude of ‘English patient’, let’s just give up?

  29. @ John 26 & 27
    @ Dennis 30

    My question re BMW & the Government. I believe that BMW got some money from the Government at some point during their stewardship and I would have thought there would have been ‘strings’ attached. If not then HMG need a good kicking for not learning lessons after the DeLorean debacle.
    I also made my comment about IPR’s in relation to the state of the company in 2005, not 2000.

    I realise that car production moved to the old Pressed Steel plant, I was again talking in terms of how Plant Oxford fits into the history of BMC in general.

    I will try and be more precise in future………

  30. Most businesses work on a 5 year plan. They set out a list of goals to achieve within those 5 years and if they don’t they cut their loses.
    I think where BMW went wrong was not realising it would take more than 5 years to turn it around, i think bernd pischetsrieder believed in it, but was given an ear lashing from the Quandt’s and other shareholders for Rover not generating the expected returns within the 5 year time scale. He left shortly afterwards.

  31. How did they only manage 75hp from a 1.6, even the old first model with a 75hp 1.4 was way off the mark

    Great present though

  32. Looking at things another way, what if Phoenix had resurrected Spiritual?

    Bini is a great product, and a success: because in 2001 the market place was crying out for a top quality small car for those who wanted an up-market car but without the bulk.

  33. Actually there is a very interesting book on the subject of BMWs purchase and disposal of Rover – “End of the Road” by Chris Brady and Andrew Lorenz – its a cracking read even if your not normally “into” that kind of thing. Suffice to say its a story of management in-fighting, misunderstanding between the British and German “sides”, failure in product strategy (prioritising the Rover 75 whilst surrendering the volume market by leaving the 25 and, especially, 45, floundering up against newer rivals), a dull witted British government (Steven Byers does not emerge well – out of his depth is the kindest description)poor ecomonic conditions, particularly the high value of Sterling etc etc. There was no way BMW were going to leave MINI with the Phoenix four -it was the only bit of Rover worth anything, along with Land Rover, which was sold to Ford in order to cover the losses from the whole misadventure. Fascinating stuff – you just wish it would end differently!

  34. 14 John – December 27, 2011
    “I’ve got to disagree with you there Steve! A MINI that hasn’t been tastefully modded looks unfinished or, worse still, like a lease car! Bring on the tasteful mods!”

    So long as they’re tasteful and subtle modifications (like clear side repeaters, standard size alloys, a bit of judicious colour coding, that sort of thing) then fine I agree.

    To be fair, personalisation is, by its very nature, personal . I just have a natural aversion to all the Cooper lookalikes on stupid HGV sized black painted alloys that make it look like the wheeltrims have been nicked – they’re so common that they start to look the norm and the standard cars then stand out as being a bit different!

  35. @ Andy:

    I have read that book quite a lot and must admit that the end chapter was not an accurate or reflective understanding of the challenges the Phoenix Consortium faced when they acquired the company, such as the need to prioritise funding in areas such as attracting new dealerships in countries where they had been amalgamated with either BMW or Land Rover franchises. Also consider the efforts to develop what was an ageing product line-up via the ‘MG’ badge route and also committing funding to putting the 75 Tourer and LWB saloon into production.

    Loses also fell over the following three years although Brady and Lorenz’s book makes no reference to the efforts by MG Rover Group employees to try and give the company a chance for survival. Instead they focus on simply whitewashing the efforts of all at MG Rover Group. Considering the book first appeared in 2000 and was then updated in 2005 after the collapse of MG Rover Group, you would have thought they would have been a bit more academic in their coverage of the MG Rover years before coming up with an overall conclusion. Sadly not.

  36. Steve @ 40:

    I don’t know if this is going to work, but here’s a picture of my old MINI just before it moved on:

    [img]http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/8797/dsc04578paulscnm.jpg[/img]

  37. We seem to have diverted from Keith’s new MINI purchase but the debate, started by Ian Langfield in comment 2, is getting interesting!

    David 3500 – above. When you think back to the early months of MGR things were looking surprisingly encouraging. Upon first hearing the news that BMW were pulling out I thought ‘Well that’s it. Game over’. However, the shift of 75 production, the 75 Tourer and the Zed’s all looked encouraging. The 45 was, perhaps, the most surprising beneficiary of the Zed treatment but all were very impressive. The 75 was as beautiful as ever, the Tourer adding to its appeal. It was only later on, with CityRover and the 2004 facelifts that things started to look desparate.
    So, here’s another thought – could they have survived even with just RDX60. OK, BMW sold Land Rover to recover their losses, kept MINI to benefit from the 1994 acquisition but why keep RDX60? I suppose many will reply 1 series but really???

  38. Hi David 3500
    I think the book heavily focussed on the BMW years and so the final chapter was more of an epilogue than a serious attempt to provide a study of the final years under the Pnoenix Four. To a great extent the die was cast at that point anyway – the only hope of survival being to find another manufacturer partner, I suppose in much the way that Cerberus did with Chrysler, managing the transition between previous partner Mercedes, and new partner Fiat. Without that MG Rover was going to fail, it was just a case of when. The story of 2000 to 2005 was about finding that possible partner – Proton, China Brilliance, SAIC etc.
    The dowry from BMW was insufficient to enable serious product development and, as a brand, Rover was already beyond salvage. It’s the point I make above with reference to MINI – a BMW can sometimes offer a weak product (1 Series, X3) and the brand will carry it through. By 2000, it wouldn’t have mattered if the 25/45 replacements had been world beaters – the Rover brand would, unfortunately, have killed them in the market. So, sales below a level that covers your fixed cost and continuing to fall, no replacement for your volume models and nowhere to go. It’s not a criticism of the guys at Longbridge – they actually did a great job with the MG Z cars etc but it was all too little too late. In fact it was probably too late even when BMW took over. Fast forward six years – and repeat for Saab.

  39. The rover engineered mini would have saved the company,and BMW knew that when they sold the remains of the company for a tenner,i myself dont care too much for BMW especially after they purposely screwed the launch of the 75-cheers Bernd,and not long after that PVH got what was left.It wasnt a nice way of doing business,so in a way PVH were no worse and yes RDX60=1 series the bloodlines are clear!
    And now more than ever i dislike the mini especially the landcrab oh sorry countryman.

  40. Congratulations Keith & Mrs Keith on the purchase of your Mini.

    We are seeing an increasing number of new Mini product at Sterling along with JLR products in addition to the MGR cars that we built our reputation on.

    Technically the Mini may not be superior but it is pretty good and very well marketed. TLC usually ensures far stronger loyalty to the dealer network too even with the higher hourly rates that kick in once TLC is done. It has taken us far longer to start to brn these fantastic little cars in but they are most welcome additions to the Sterling family.

  41. Andy – comment 45

    “By 2000 it wouldn’t have mattered if the 25/45 replacements were world beaters – the Rover brand would, unfortunately, have killed them in the market” What?! I don’t thinks so.
    The Rover name in recent years had benefitted from the R8 led revival. Subsequently, the HHR 400 was a bit of a downward step. However, in 1998/99 came a real, ground up, new Rover – the 75 of course. It hardly killed the brand but more brought it truely back to life. When 200 and 400 became 25 & 45, ie in 2000, they looked good and their image was reasonable. They would certainly have lasted until the intended launch of 55.

    So no, when BMW decided to dispose of Rover the brand was not “beyond salvage”. Only months earlier it had been regarded as a sound basis for expansion as a group in order to avoid BMW itself being swallowed up.

  42. Dennis – “The 5 year business plan”

    The results of any business plan must surely be measured not after 5 years but a few months after the launch of planned new models. Yet BMW were making their intention to pull out very clear on the first day of the first new model!

  43. “The results of any business plan must surely be measured not after 5 years but a few months after the launch of planned new models. Yet BMW were making their intention to pull out very clear on the first day of the first new model!”

    Don’t forget they’d already launched 3 new models less than a year after purchase, sales of these didn’t hit expectations. By the end of their 5 years they were still losing money.

    I get the impression that Bernd had been dragged into the bosses office or had a visit from the boss the day before the 75’s launch and had a few shreds torn off him for Rover’s apparently lack of profit generation. This wasn’t long after BMW had discovered Rover’s field full of ex-lease Rover 600’s which they’d bought back at a guaranteed re-sale values which were much higher than they were worth. They’d been hidden away and sold of gradually to avoid flooding the market and losing even more money!

  44. Dennis – I see your point. I was referring to new models designed & planned under BMW ownership. I suppose when BMW acquired Rover in 1994, they were expecting the new 200 & 400 ranges to maintain the success of R8.

    I still can’t lose the thought of so near and yet so far, however. It’s back to ultimately blaming the government. They should have realised what BMW had so nearly achieved, adopted longer term thinking and injected some state aid.

    At the time of the 75’s launch the planned recovery, strategy was largely on course. The biggest damage at this time was BMW’s loss of faith, support. Had the government stepped in to keep BMW on side I’m sure short term difficulties (exchange rate, ageing 25,45) would have been overcome and a successful Rover would be trading today.

  45. A big part of the MINI’s current and future success as a premium small car is the huge and growing market for a premium small car and its variants in the USA….as expected the MINI Countryman in particular is selling well in the USA.

    If the MINI had stayed with Rover with no established USA Dealer network and the poor past reputation for Rover/BL out there, the MINI sales volumes necessary in the US and now being achieved via BMW’s existing network could surely never have happened?

    Quote:
    “MINI USA reported sales of 4,750 automobiles in November, up an astonishing 70.5% from the 2,786 sold in November 2010. Year-to-date, MINI sales in the U.S. are up 25.4% on volume of 51,800 compared to 41,324 in the first eleven months of 2010.”
    http://www.motoringfile.com/2011/12/01/mini-usa-sales-up-70-for-november/

  46. @ Keith Adams:

    Looking at the photo of your other half’s MINI, it looks like the front window in your house has been boarded up from the inside. Was this to prevent her from seeing her new present or to prevent her from escaping the house so as to actually drive it?

    Come on, admit it, you’ve really bought it as an occasional plaything for yourself.

  47. 42 John – December 27, 2011
    Steve @ 40:
    I don’t know if this is going to work, but here’s a picture of my old MINI just before it moved on:

    That looks nice – silver wheels, white lenses, lovely blue colour and colour coded bits (especially the grill being colour coded makes all the difference). I do think that Minis would suit a more simple five spoke wheel design though – they always seem to be multi spoked with fake allen key bolts. Mind you, I am probably very behind the times when it comes to alloy wheel fashion!

  48. Hi David Dawson
    I disagree. The R8 helped Rover short term but, fantastic product though the 75 was, it didn’t sell in anything like the numbers it could/should have – and thats my point, it’s all, particularly in the UK, about brand. Just imagine how well a “BMW 75” or a “Volkswagen 75” would have sold in contrast. Partly it’s failure was down to the behaviour of BMW at its launch but, ultimately its because “Rover” in the minds of the public meant “British Leyland”, national soap opera, poor quality,cars like the Rover 100 that were 15 years out of date but which were still sold under this premium brand. I wish it was different because I love the cars but, to turn Rover round as a brand by 2000 would have taken many years and a phenominal amount of money.
    Rover itself recognised the problem and that is reflected in the constant name changes – cant sell an Austin Metro, try Rover Metro, can’t sell Morris 1800, try Leyland Princess, can’t sell Triumph Acclaim, replace it wth Rover 200. It’s not about logic or common sense its about how the market perceives a brand – and by 2000 Rover was pretty much finished.

  49. “If the MINI had stayed with Rover with no established USA Dealer network and the poor past reputation for Rover/BL out there”

    Although Rover Group did have a dealer network in the US and sold models in decent numbers. Land-ROVER. LR shared their dealer network with Jaguar long before the break up, so a premium branded ‘Mini’ could have fitted into that network the same as it did into BMW’s. BMW had the right idea piggy backing Mini dealerships along side BMW dealers, i suspect Rover would have flogged them through the normal dealers here and tried to set up a whole new network in the US.

  50. @ Andy:

    A further problem not mentioned is the fact that the trading company (Rover Group) was commonly referred to by the media (in a lazy, convenient way rather than formal accuracy) as simply “Rover”, without specific reference to Rover Group, Rover Cars etc. Bad news about financial losses or potential redundancies at “Rover” would inevitably be associated with the Rover Cars brand itself. Bad publicity for the company = bad publicity for the brand it shares the same name association with. This became particularly apparent during the latter years of the BMW ownership era and also during the more rcent MG Rover Group era when the convenient “Rover” tag was conveniently applied.

    A further consideration is that the Rover brand was not allowed to develop the sort of halo models that the Rover Group knew its customers demanded. Since the early 1970s the Rover brand had tradtionally offered such derivatives that further raised the profile of the ‘lesser’ models in the range (e.g. P6 3500 S, SD1 V8S, Vitesse, Vanden Plas etc).

    However, with the loss of the 800 Vitesse in September 1998 and of course the remaining specialist variants of the R8 model from 1996 until July 1998, there were no such offerings. BMW was extremely proactive in preventing the introduction of new offerings through the fear that the blue and white propellor brand might loose sales to more competitively priced Rover offerings. Then again, if someone bought a Rover rather than a BMW, it was still good news for the BMW Group compared to the consumer buying a rival product from Volkswagen Audi Group.

    These factors did not help the Rover brand in the UK although abroad the name was well liked and admired, particularly in Italy, Switzerland and Sweden.

    Also, compare sales of the Rover variants in the UK against the MG versions sold for the years 2002 – 2004 (2002 being the first full year of MG Z saloon production), and the Rover brand consistently outsold the MGs. The only exception in the latter half of 2004 was the MG ZR.

    Of course, MG Rover Group themselves did little to try and rejuvenate the Rover name until 2003 – three years after “Rover” had changed ownership – at a time when its need for better marketing and halo models was greater than that for MG.

    To rejuvenate the Rover brand (and I believe it was possible) would have needed more proactive and aspirational-based marketing, the introduction of the all-important halo models and, of course, all-new products that were not constrained by being based on existing designs or restricted in their abilities by licensing agreements.

    As a genuine Rover enthusiast (of the brand rather than “the company”)it pains me to say this, but thankfully the Rover brand is now free of being used to try and give credence to the remains of a state-owned company and its ageing products, and being mismanaged by owners that are either paranoid or short of money to invest.

  51. I don’t agree with much of the “Rover had become worthless as a brand” argument. Rover Group had achieved much in terms of a peception of quality, a perception of something above Ford and Vauxhall. Remember the slogan “Above all, it’s a Rover” You could hardly have imagined this slogan just a few years earlier – “Above all, it’s an Allegro” – hmm, I don’t think so!

    OK, funds were short and Metro/100 especially aged. But, in terms of image and actual quality Rover Group had achieved much. The key problem was limited funds for new model development.

    This is my whole point. When BMW acquired Rover in 1994 it had already started on the path to becoming a quality, niche producer. The acquisition by BMW seemed at the time and should have been the ideal way to complete this process – BMW had the means to fund new designs and reinforce the qualuty image.

    Such a shame BMW got so close, but yet so far……

    Time to end this debate now I think! We are on Keith’s (other half’s!) new MINI page!!

  52. Hi David3500

    I agree. Just out of interest I’ve been living in Sweden for the last few years and there is a fondness for “British cars” – you still see quite a few Rover 75s around Malmo and they seem to keep their value very well (albeit all secondhand cars are relatively expensive compared to the UK!)From what I gather BMC sold a lot over here in the 50/60/70s but the Marina/Allegro/Maxi years killed that off and the company pretty much withdrew – the Metro, Maestro etc were not even sold here as far as I know. Come the mid 90s and sales started again with some success. Swedes seem to see Rover as a company that failed because a) the British dont care about supporting or protecting their industry and b) it was too small to survive. The product is judged on its merits – which is why you see 75s and not 45s I suppose.
    Not far from Malmo there is a village called Loddekoppinge and during the summer months, every Tuesday evening, classic enthusiasts bring their cars out – there are three fields, one for bikes, one for American cars (they love old American cars out here – i read there are more here than any other country outside the U.S) and the rest for European cars. When the weather is good its packed and its all free – the European section is full of Mini’s, MGs, Jaguars, I’ve seen P6s, SD1s, Stags, Minors, Heralds, Landcrabs! and even an Allegro. I,ve always thought it amazing that everyone loves old British cars but we struggle to sell any new ones….
    Anyway I digress – nice Mini Mr Adams

  53. A Swedish Princess owner posted something about their here a couple of years ago.

    It mentioned that all sold in Sweden had 4 round headlight & that BL had a fair amount of the market until the early 1970s.

  54. Keith to be honest, buying a car on the never never in the middle of the worst recession for decades is a bit foolhardy, plus you have just taken at least a £3k hit on depreciation, and it will make you look like a crap estate agent. Binis MUST have alloys & not Poundland wheeltrims on.

  55. @Marty B

    I quite like the wheeltrims, makes a nice change from all the ones with bling alloys and is more in keeping with the Mini’s heritage (remember that folks?)

    Plus Keith has put some cash into the British economy and made his Missus happy – they’re both good things and he should be applauded. I’m sure he can afford it, whichever way he may be paying (or have paid) for it – don’t forget he’s got a Rover V8, running that must cost a fortune so he can’t be short of a few bob 😉

  56. It looks lovely – and that’s a very appropriate colour for typically flat, grey midlands skies, really brings a bit of warmth to the roads (says the serial-grey-car offender – three for three on my last three new cars, and the one prior to those was black).

    And what a great present to be able to give. Hope you had a fantastic Christmas 😀

  57. Steve Bailey, Post 55:

    Thanks for fixing the link and the kind comments!

    Incidentally, it came with 5 spokes from the dealer and the split rims were fitted afterwards. The allen bolts on those were real too, as the wheels could be dismantled. Real pain in the backside to keep clean and free of corrosion!

  58. @John, 66

    Gorgeous colour your old Mini – I love blue cars. Such a shame no-one seems to buy blue cars these days. Ah – the allen bolts were real – that changes things. They are then functional and thus desirable!

  59. Had a new Cooper in 2005, sold it in 2007 with 77K on the clock and nothing but routine servicing to report, although BMW stealers could vary in their service standards….
    Then had a new Cooper S in Nov 07 until 2010, which did have 2 faults to report in 60k miles, the a/c had to be re-gassed and the timing belt had to be fixed under warranty (sounded like a diesel), however both my Bini’s were fun and i still them both locally to me with their current owners.

    Why the new Mini gets so much stick is beyond me, after all Bentley & Rolls Royce have both benefitted from foreign investment have they not?

    And of course they bring vital jobs to Britain….

  60. @ Ian Langfield:

    Technically, no, although in reality, yes. Namely a very exclusive edition (whose name escapes me) with a Rolls Royce trimmed interior and nearly every optional extra included. All yours for nearly £50,000.

    I suppose that would qualify as the MINI ‘Last’. At that price and with such indulgence, it really does bring home why the ‘lesser’ models such as the ONE are so much more appealing and, well… honest.

    To be honest, the more I read Keith’s blog about his other half’s new MINI the more I admire him for not being seduced by the sheer array of tempting optional extras and accessories. Metallic paint is a very nice feature to have and air conditioning will undoubtedly prove its worth on very cold mornings and on boiling hot summer days – I live in hope about the latter predictor!

  61. My God. Keith buys a car and 70 odd people have a barney about it.

    1.Whilst it may be a BMW product it was made here and supports the UK workforce.

    2. Keith bought it with his own money.

    3. He’s not scrappaged an SD1 to buy it.

    4.MG had their chance and blew it, too busy playing on Facebook me thinks?

    So lets congratulate him on his purchase and all have a Happy 2012.

  62. What a nice man you are keith, a new mini as an xmas gift. If you want to shack up with me next year, my xmas gift is already pencilled in,- a Rowe 75, (if you can import me one)!

  63. 70Ben Adams – December 29, 2011
    “My God. Keith buys a car and 70 odd people have a barney about it.
    1.Whilst it may be a BMW product it was made here and supports the UK workforce.
    2. Keith bought it with his own money.
    3. He’s not scrappaged an SD1 to buy it.
    4.MG had their chance and blew it, too busy playing on Facebook me thinks?
    So lets congratulate him on his purchase and all have a Happy 2012.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself!

  64. Could this be a future even cheaper entry level MINI than the First or One in the tradition of the original Minivan? 🙂

    MINI to Introduce Clubman Van at Geneva?
    According to a report by German publication Auto Motor und Sport, MINI intends on showing a cargo van version of the current Clubman in late February 2012 at the Geneva Motor Show. The concept (which could be very close to production) reportedly will feature two seats and a flat load floor. Gone are the typical rear windows and in their place sheet metal for greater safety and reduced cost.

    Rumor has it MINI wants to bring the version of the Clubman to market as a way to capture commercial sales in Europe that are currently not served by the MINI brand. It’s unknown whether or not MINI intends to import the car to the North American market.

    http://www.motoringfile.com/2011/12/30/mini-to-introduce-mini-clubman-cargo-van-at-geneva/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Motoringfile+%28MotoringFile+|+MINI+News%2C+Reviews+and+Podcast%29

  65. “The concept (which could be very close to production) reportedly will feature two seats and a flat load floor”

    Surely that’s been ‘close to production’ since they launched the clubman, in that all they need to do is take the back seats out, screw some tin to the floor and blank off the rear windows.

  66. I can’t believe that they haven’t brought out a Mini van by now – it would be ideal for trendy city businesses, young childless couples with “active” lifestyles etc. A Mini pick up would be cool too!

  67. Steve Bailey – comment 78

    Good point!

    Further sales for the MINI brand – I’m sure if done properly a van, and even a pick up, wouldn’t detract from the image and sales of the regular MINI. I mean, if it can survive Countryman….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


WordPress spam blocked by CleanTalk.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.