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Manufacturers / U.K. / Rover

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Rover vehicles


Rover 10-12   (1906)

Rover Group, the largest car maker in Great Britain, is a living history of how a countryís auto industry declines. The group has a complicated history because it was formed by a dozen of large and small car makers in different time. Although the name "Rover" is used for the group today, it is not necessarily the mainstream of the groupís history. Instead, I believe Austin is more worthy to the mainstream status. Austin was famous of producing the Austin Seven (1922-31) which was the most popular British car before the Second World War.

The Rover line started life in 1904 to produce medium price cars. Before that it was a bicycle and motorbike maker. The production rate remained low during the pre-war years - even in its best year, 1939, it produced just 11,000 cars. After the war, it introduced the first civilian 4x4, Land Rover. That was 1948. Within 10 years of production, the 250,000 Land Rovers rolled off the production line and became one of the most important model for Rover.


Rover 12   (1911)

Another main contributor to the group was Morris, which produced the first car in its name in 1913. Like Austin, Morrisí cars were famous of cheap and simple, the most notable is the post-war model Minor, which was the best ever selling British car in then. MG is the short write of Morris Garage, which was a sports car maker turned from a garage in 1925. It made low price, light weight sports cars out of Morrisí parts. Models such as TC, Midget, MGA and MGB stormed the world from the mid-40ís to the early 70ís, helped Britain securing the top spot of world-wide sports car market.

Austin cooperated with sports car specialist Healey to introduce a line of sports cars under the name of Austin-Healey, most notable are Austin-Healey 100 and 3000.


Rover T1   (1952)

Now come the amalgamation. Austin merged with Morris in 1952 to form BMC (British Motor Corporation), easily became the largest British car maker. In 1959, it introduced one of the all time great, Mini, in both the Austin and Morris badges. Until today over 5.3 million Mini were produced. In later years, racing expert John Cooper even modified it into Mini Cooper and won the í64 Monte Carlo Rally. Meanwhile, the sports car subsidiary of both brands, Austin-Healey and MG (they were once rival), were produced in the same factory side by side. To avoid internal competition, the Autsin-Healey received greater engine and were pushed upmarket. The MG remained to produce mass roadsters, from MGA to MGC.


Rover P4   (1962)

Rover continued to survived as an executive car maker and off-roader maker. The model Rover 2000 won European Car of the Year in 1963. But that didnít stopped the British motor industry from declining. Many car makers, including Rover and BMC, were actually running in loss. In 1967, under the guidance of the government, Rover, BMC, truck maker Leyland and more other small manufacturers merged into a single company which effectively dominated the British car industry, that company named British Leyland Motor Corporation formally but was more well known as "British Leyland". This group had almost 20 brands under its control, including Austin, Austin-Healey, Land Rover, Rover, MG, Triumph, Leyland, Morris, Riley, Jaguar, Daimler and Vanden Plas. Over the next few years the company rationalised its assets and resources, but the financial status was not improved. MG and Austin-Healey died away in the late 70ís under competition from the Japanese, starting from Datsun 240Z.

Under the leadership of Labour Partyís government, the group was nationalised while Jaguar and Daimler were sold off.


Rover P6   (1970)

In the 70ís, British Leyland dropped the Morris name and used the sports car name Triumph to market saloons also. The TR-series sports cars still survived until 1981, by then the saloon division had already lost too much money and was transformed to assemble Honda Civic under license. However, the group soon realised the Rover brand could make the Honda-based cars look more expensive, so the Triumph died away.


Rover 200   (1984)

In the 80ís, Leyland truck quit the group so that the latter was renamed to Austin Rover, which showed 2 of the most important brand names of the group. The Austin produced cheaper cars such as Metro (developed from Mini), Maestro and Montage. Rover made more modern and prestige cars out of Honda Concerto (Rover 200 and 400), Accord (600) and Legend (800). The Japanese car maker had minority share in Rover but a take over was not considered.


Rover 100   (1990)

By the mid-90ís, all the outdated Austin models phased out and the brand became effectively dead. The group was therefore called simply "Rover Group", which built just Rover and Land Rover. Later, the launch of MGF revived the MG brand while the Mini started marketing as a separate brand. This is still carry on today.

The link with Honda faded out since 1994 as BMW took over the group. However, after 6 years BMW withdrew with burnt hands. BMW also split Mini, Triumph, Riley and Land Rover from Rover and MG. Rover's fate now depends on the Phoenix group.

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