28 April 2005

Is this the end of another brand?

Who is to blame for Rovers current predicament is difficult to determine at this point in time. Certainly it is too early to blame the Phoenix Corporation or BMW, both of whom made good and bad decisions.

What is a surprise is the reluctance of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp's (SAIC) not to acquire MG Rover. It was assumed by many, including this individual that the fast track route to global brand, as practiced by the likes of Haier and Lenovo, would spill over into the automotive industry. What it needed was a western manufacturer in need of a bit of cash. Certainly Rover appeared to fit the bill. And my guess is that a number of loyal Brits would have stuck by one the UK's few remaining brands.

The problem may well be the asking price. A million quid is a lot of money, even to a cash rich Politburo purchasing manager. But what is the alternative? After all, whilst there is a ready market for SAIC cars in China, it is unlikely significant inroads would have been made into western markets with the SAIC badge on the grill. And even if it were an option, it would have taken at least 10 - 20 years to build the brand.

Locally, MG Rover returned to Malaysia less than a year ago. With much fanfare, sole importer, Brooklands Motors launched the marque and claimed to sell more cars in the last 3 months of 2004 than it forecast, despite the lukewarm comments from reviewers. Rod Ramsay, MG Rovers Sales Operations Director, was impressed and said that MG Rover would make sure Malaysia got allocated more cars to meet the demand.

My guess is that recent events will put an end to any resurgence.


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