Advert of the Week : Rover 800 Vitesse

Keith Adams

Back in the late-1980s, Rover was trying very hard to make its products more aspirational – and, it has to be said that, for a brief period of time, anyway, the company was extremely successful at doing just this.

In that spirit, this wonderful TV advert depicting the Rover 800 Vitesse in the heart of the German car industry’s manufacturing base impressing a couple of management types really does sell the message well. Enjoy the advert, and shed a tear as you say to yourself, ‘where did it all go wrong?’

Keith Adams


    • I don’t think that it was an issue of delusion.
      Rather a marketing strategy that is addressed to the full spectrum from the ignorants to morons.
      I like and appreciate the 800 for what it is, i would never deny that.
      But i would never think of comparing it with the engineering and build of the W124, as this advert implies.

      • Well, actually the engineering of the 6 cylinder W124 cars was not very good, with the engines having a number of troubles associated with valve gear and lubrication , as did the twin ohc engines of the 2.8 litre W 123, which was not one of Mercedes’ best efforts. The W124 in my view marked the beginning of the slide in Mercedes’ quality in their lower ranges

        • I mostly agree, but regardless, the initial point of my argument remains valid. You wont judge the car just by the petrol six engines. There were also the excellent 4 cyls, the diesel sixes that still go strong after insterstellar mileages, not to mention the V8s. And what about body engineering, what about suspension and brakes. There is just no comparison. And i don’t even like the W124.

  1. I remember seeing this advert as if it was yesterday… particularly the deep monotone music and subtitles. Yes indeed, where did it all go wrong? Great to see these old adverts though.

  2. Stylish advert… However the problem is that it puts german cars on a pedestal, and contributes to the perception that they are the definitive luxury cars. A good car commercial should never mention direct rivals as it takes attention of the actual product, and at worst it reeks of an inferiority complex. The subconcious message is “our product is as good as german cars, and german cars are the gold standard.”

    This Citroen C5 commercial has the same problem:

    • Indeed!
      I am a C5 owner and while i rate my car very highly, i find this commercial embarassingly stupid!
      What were they thinking for God’s sake?

      • Over here in Greece too. It has reached the end of its production life after 6 years, production will cease at the end of this year. Since last summer it is only available in 2 litre diesel engines at 160 or 180 bhp. The sad thing is that there are no known plans for a successor. No big Citroëns any more.

        BTW, i was surprised to spot quite a few during my short visit in UK last winter. Mostly on motorways in the greater Manchester area.

  3. The C5 commercial, with its Wagnerian music and uber Germanic driver and cohorts, makes you wonder when you first watch it if it’s an advert for something like a Mercedes S class as the driver looks like someone who would be quite happy speeding down the autobahn at 140 mph in his S Klasse. However, while I admire the cleverness of the advert, it certainly didn’t have people rushing to their nearest Citroen showroom to trade in their German cars and the C5 seemed to plow its own furrow of appealing to Citroenistes again.
    That said, I quite like the C5 and think Citroens in recent years have become some of the most interesting cars on the road and the quality seems better.

  4. A great advert, though in retrospect the styling of the Mk1 800 hasn’t aged that well, it looks like an SD1, but less unified, and lacks the class of the BMW/Merc rivals of the time

  5. I absolutely loved this advert. A sign of promising times, a real turn around in fortunes.

    To this day, I quote the the German translation of “when you could have had…..” in every day life. Said in varoius tones, manners it fits a surprising number of situations – ” Wen ich den varl hetter…..” (something like that anyway)

  6. I often think the driver of the C5 looks rather like Reinhard Heydrich, infamous second in command to Heinrich Himmler. Ironically in France and the Low Countries, Citroens were often commandeered as transport for the Gestapo( watch any war film set in these countries, and a black thirties Citroen with the huge chevrons on the radiator grille is the car the Gestapo seemed to use.)

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