Blog: Dave LeggettMother of Rover balls-ups?

Dave Leggett | 20 June 2005

It is barely possible to meet up with British journalist/analyst colleagues at the moment and not end up talking about the big and sorry subject which is the failure of MG Rover. It is just so immediate and there are so many interesting strands to the discussion.

How far were the Phoenix guys culpable? What if it had gone to Honda instead of BMW in '94? How far was the lack of an industrial policy in Britain during the 1980s responsible? Which BMC/BL/Rover products were genuinely good and which were good but poorly executed? Which were the unmitigated disasters and true pig-dogs of automotive engineering? How much worse was British Leyland in the 1970s than other state bankrolled companies such as Fiat and Renault? And why is Renault sitting so pretty now after all that French taxpayers' money?

For every Morris 1100, Morris Minor, BMC Mini or Triumph Stag that causes the eyes to well-up with national pride, there’s an Austin Maxi, Triumph Herald with sections that did not fit or an Allegro with a square steering wheel. For every Michael Edwardes trying to save the company, there’s a Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson with suicidal tendencies. For every Alec Issigonis, there’s a designer somewhere who takes responsibility for the Austin Princess. Why, it’s like yin and yang.

Who’s to blame? When did the rot set in? How might it have been different and, more pointedly, what happens now? Could the MG brand and MGTF roadster be a starting point for a BMW Mini-style renaissance?

The argument goes on into the night.

Maybe we will get over it eventually.

But there’s a twist in the latest chapter – the failure of MG Rover under Phoenix – that is quite staggering, even by the epic standards of the long tragedy that is the Rover saga.

Could it really be, that SAIC is sitting on the rights to the MGTF sports car….by mistake? The Financial Times is reporting that MG Rover ‘mistakenly’ transferred the rights to the TF when it sold SAIC the rights to the Rover 25 and 75 late last year. That would be quite a boo-boo (oops, you’ve got an extra one there, mate - oh, never mind). There’s another story doing the rounds that the Phoenix guys signing over MG Rover model rights to SAIC had been plied with drink (one of the oldest tricks in the book, please God don't let it be that bad) and were a little ‘tight’ when signing.

I do hope none of this is true, I really do.

UK: MG Rover 'mistakenly' sold Chinese rights to TF sports car


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