Blog: Iranian interest in MG Rover
Dave Leggett | 9 May 2005
While having a look at the Barcelona motor show last Friday afternoon my cell phone rang and I was surprised to find myself talking to someone at the Persian section of the BBC World Service. The journalist wanted to talk about Iranian interest in MG Rover and the possible problems on intellectual property (SAIC having paid for the rights on some of MG Rover’s models). The guy also said he wanted to record it, so there I was, music booming from the Ferrari stand in the background, doing a recorded interview on my mobile phone. It would also be translated over into Persian later. That was really quite bizarre. I wonder how the quality turned out and what they make of that whole story in Iran. The situation on who owns what rights and what that actually means seems unclear. I hope the administrators have got some answers for interested parties, whoever they may be.
Why the interest from Iran? On one level, it potentially gets much-needed technology for Iran’s developing auto industry. But maybe there is a wider picture too. Perhaps buying MG Rover - especially if some production was maintained at Longbridge - would get better relations with Britain and help the Iranians with wider geopolitical issues (e.g. the nuclear issue). Okay, maybe that is stretching things a bit, although that is one theory being put about and it is supported by the apparently very active role of the Iranian government in the Iranian approaches.
There was actually a small group of delegates from Iranian number two producer SAIPA (makes the Kia Pride) at the ANE Congress. I talked to them about MG Rover, but all they would offer was that they believed discussions were continuing. Anyway, looks like the story may have been blown out of proportion a bit.
Still on Iran, Les Parfitt at SMMT tells me that there is a trade mission to Tehran coming up soon. British companies interested in attending (there’s a government grant to ease the cost) should contact him directly at email@example.com - Tel: +44(0)20 7344 9233 Fax: +44(0)20 7344 1675. Maybe now is a good time to go – there is certainly much going on in the auto industry and market over there (the SAIPA guys also told me that a way has been found to offer Islamic-friendly finance in Iran, boosting the market further). I went to Tehran myself a few years ago - nothing like as bad as the media tends to portray the place. They are perfectly okay with the British and other Europeans - you just have to remember to keep that 'I love America' T-Shirt and the stars'n'stripes baseball cap at home.
(Do you like conspiracy theories? They can be fun. Here’s one funny one I heard over dinner last week on why SAIC ran out on MG Rover. Condoleezza Rice’s name was mentioned. You see, it's like this. The Bush administration has been getting increasingly concerned that British PM Tony Blair – number one US ally - may be wobbling in his support for US policies in the Middle East, especially on Iraq but also in other areas. Someone high up in the Bush administration asked the Chinese government – in return for some sort of favour – to get SAIC to withdraw from negotiations, with the result that MG Rover went into bankruptcy. The message to Blair, especially potent at election time in an area of the country, West Midlands, where his Labour Party holds many seats by a slim margin: we are very powerful and ruthless so get in line and remember your Texas friend. It's a warning. Actually, I thought that one was quite creative if not all that plausible.)
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