Rover


The History of Rover

   

The Rover Company is a former British car manufacturing company founded as Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry in 1878. After developing the template for the modern bicycle with its Rover Safety Bicycle of 1885, the company moved into the automotive industry. It started building motorcycles and Rover cars, using their established marque with the iconic Viking Longship, from 1904 onwards. Land Rover vehicles were added from 1947 onwards, with all production based in Solihull after moving to these premises after World War II.
Despite a state-controlled absorption by the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC) in 1967 and subsequent mergers, nationalisation and de-mergers, the Rover marque retained its identity first as an independent subsidiary division of LMC, and then through variously named groups of British Leyland through the 1970s and into the 1980s.
The Rover marque became the primary brand of the then newly renamed Rover Group in 1988 as it passed first through the hands of British Aerospace and then into the ownership of BMW Group. Technological know-how gained from Honda and financial investment during the BMW ownership led to a revival of the Rover marque during the 1990s in its core midsize segment.
In 2000, BMW sold the Rover and related MG car activities of the Rover Group to the Phoenix Consortium, who established the MG Rover Group at Longbridge. BMW retained ownership of the Rover marque, allowing MG Rover to use it under licence. In April 2005, Rover branded cars ceased to be produced when the MG Rover Group became insolvent.
BMW sold the Rover marque to Ford in 2006 for approximately £6 million, heralding an option of first refusal to buy it as a result of its purchase of Land Rover. Ford thus reunited the original Rover Company marques, primarily for brand-protective reasons, in preparation for divesting its Premier Automotive Group subsidiary.
In March 2008, Ford reached agreement with Tata Motors of India to include the Rover marque as part of the sale of their Jaguar Land Rover operations to them, alongside related Daimler and Lanchester marques. Legally the Rover marque is the property of Land Rover under the terms of Ford's purchase of the name in 2006.
With no Rover cars currently in production, the marque is considered dormant.
Three years after Starley's death in 1901, and H. J. Lawson's subsequent takeover, the Rover company began producing automobiles with the two-seater Rover Eight. Short-lived experiments with sleeve valve engines were abandoned, and the 12hp model was introduced in 1912. This car was so successful that all other cars were dropped, and for a while, Rover pursued a "one model" policy.
The 1950s and '60s were fruitful years for the company. The Land Rover became a runaway success (despite Rover's reputation for making upmarket saloons, the utilitarian Land Rover was actually the company's biggest seller throughout the 1950s, '60s, and '70s), as well as the P5 and P6 saloons equipped with a 3.5L (215ci) aluminium V8 (the design and tooling of which was purchased from Buick) and pioneering research into gas turbine-fueled vehicles.
This Alvis-Rover prototype for a midengined sports car was shown to the press in 1967, but investment cash was severely limited in the wake of the BLMC merger, and the model never entered production.In 1967, Rover became part of the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), which already owned Triumph. The next year, LMC merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to become the British Leyland Motor Corporation. This was the beginning of the end for the independent Rover Company, as the Solihull-based company's heritage drowned beneath the infamous industrial relations and managerial problems that beset the British motor industry throughout the 1970s. At various times, it was part of the Specialist Division (hence the factory designation SD1 for the first—and in the event, only—model produced under this arrangement), Leyland Cars, Rover-Triumph, and the short-lived Jaguar Rover Triumph.
In 1970, Rover combined its skill in producing comfortable saloons and the rugged Land Rover 4x4 to produce the Range Rover, one of the first cars (albeit possibly inspired by the earlier Jeep Wagoneer and IH Scout) to combine off-road ability and comfortable versatility. Powered by the ex-Buick V8 engine, it had innovative features such as a permanent 4 wheel drive system, all-coil spring suspension, and disc brakes on all wheels. Able to reach speeds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h) yet also capable of extreme off-road use, the original Range Rover design was to remain in production for the next 26 years.
As British Leyland struggled through financial turmoil and an industrial-relations crisis during the 1970s, it was effectively nationalized after a multi-billion-pound government cash injection in 1975.
Austin Rover Group was formed in 1982 as the mass-market car manufacturing subsidiary of BL, with the separate Rover Company becoming effectively defunct. In the 1980s, the slimmed-down BL used the Rover brand on a range of cars codeveloped with Honda. The first Honda-sourced Rover model, released in 1984, was the Rover 200, which, like the Triumph Acclaim that it replaced, was based on the Honda Ballade.
By 1986, Austin Rover had moved to a one-marque strategy, using only the Rover brand. Its parent, BL, was renamed as the Rover Group, with the car division becoming Rover Cars. In 1986, the Rover SD1 was replaced by the Rover 800, developed with the Honda Legend. The Austin range were now technically Rovers, though the word "Rover" never actually appeared on the badging. Instead, there was a badge similar to the Rover Viking shape, without wording. These were replaced by the Rover 400 and Rover 600, based on Honda's Concerto and Accord, respectively.
In 1988, the Rover brand went back into private hands when the Rover Group was acquired by British Aerospace.
In 1994, British Aerospace sold the Rover Group, including the Rover, Land Rover, Riley, Mini, Triumph, and Austin-Healey brands to BMW, who had begun to see Rover-branded cars as potential major competitors. Under BMW, the Rover Group developed the Rover 75 as a retro-designed car influenced by the earlier Rover P4 and P5 designs.
In 2000, BMW split up the Rover Group, selling Land Rover to the Ford Motor Company for an estimated sum of £1.8-billion, retaining the MINI operations, and selling the rest of the car business to the Phoenix Consortium, who established it as MG Rover.
A specially assembled group of businessmen, known as the Phoenix Consortium and headed by ex-Rover chief executive John Towers, established the MG Rover Group from the former Rover Group car operations (acquired from BMW for a nominal £10 in May 2000) and continued to use the Rover brand under licence from BMW.
The year before its breakup, the Rover Group had sustained losses of an estimated £800-million. The four businessmen who took control of the newly formed MG Rover Group are reported to have received around £430-million in a dowry from BMW that included unsold stock.
MG Rover production ceased on 15 April 2005, when it was declared insolvent. On 22 July 2005, the physical assets of the collapsed firm were sold to the Nanjing Automobile Group for £53m. They indicated that their preliminary plans involved relocating the Powertrain engine plant to China while splitting car production into Rover lines in China and resumed MG lines in the West Midlands (though not necessarily at Longbridge), where a UK R&D and technical facility would also be developed.
In July 2006, SAIC announced their intent to buy the Rover brand name from BMW, who still owned the rights to the Rover marque. However, BMW refused their request, due to an agreement that Ford had reached with them to be given first option on the brand when it acquired Land Rover. Unable to use the Rover name, SAIC created their own brand with a similar name and badge, known as Roewe. Roewe was eventually launched in early 2007.
Ford had first option to purchase the Rover brand name if MG Rover ceased trading, a right that had been negotiated when the Land Rover brand was bought from BMW. This right was exercised on 18 September 2006.  No Rover-branded cars were produced whilst Ford owned the brand, and in a further twist, Tata Motors now owns the brand that was used for the ill-fated CityRover model, a rebadged Tata Indica marketed by MG Rover under license in the UK Market from 2003 to 2005.
As part of Ford's agreement to sell their Jaguar Land Rover operations to Tata Motors, the Rover brand name was included in the deal.

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