of new Rover cars in New Zealand have crashed while the fate of the distributorship
remains in limbo, writes Donn Anderson. The British franchise has been seeking
a new importer and is investigating “interesting alternatives”, but no distributor
has yet been announced.

As BMW New Zealand Ltd, the previous Rover and Land Rover distributor, disposed
of its stocks, sales of new Rover cars in New Zealand for the first half of
2001 were little more than one-tenth the level for the same period last year.
The Rover 200 series, formerly the mainstay of sales, has fallen to a trickle
while the Rover 75 is now a slow seller after a promising 2000.

But Land Rover business, under the new umbrella of Ford New Zealand, has been
doing well in a less than static market.

Land Rover sales are up 19%, with Range Rover posting record months and pushing
volume up 17% in 2001 year-to-date figures. There has been a sharp 88% boost
in Freelander sales following the introduction of the V6 version earlier this
year, although demand for the Discovery has slipped 23%.

Rover woes have been compounded by the failure of the high profile Rover City
dealership, based in the heart of Auckland city.

Profile –


Rover City, which handled Land Rover as well, opened little more than two years
ago and went into receivership in July, leaving BMW without a dealership for
the new MINI brand.

Geoff Fletcher, managing director of BMW New Zealand, says one of the two Auckland
BMW dealerships will likely establish a separate showroom and sales complex
for new Mini. He is not concerned about timing since the official Mini sales
launch in New Zealand is not until March 2002. Other Mini outlets have already
been put in place in Wellington and Christchurch.

Fletcher has no objection to New Zealand BMW dealers continuing to sell Rover
cars, although this depends on profitability.

“Some dealers will feel the demands for the BMW and Land Rover franchises are
enough and will not want to add to the complexity,” says Fletcher. But he admits
the new Rover importer will want to take advantage of the existing BMW dealer

Although it has run out of new stock, BMW New Zealand is to continue providing
parts and service for Rover cars until a new distributor is appointed.

Last year Land Rover sold 489 new units while 466 Rover cars found Kiwi homes,
a far cry from the halcyon days of the 70s when British Leyland Austin, Morris,
Rover and Triumph brands led the New Zealand market, with annual sales topping
17,000 a year, including 3,000 Minis.

New Zealand’s once thriving CKD assembly industry built favourites like
the Morris 1100, Triumph 2000 and Austin A60. Three New Zealand factories assembled
Leyland cars and a short-lived attempt was made to export locally built Rover
3500 and Jaguar XJ6 models to Australia. This failed when the build quality
did not come up to scratch.

While the future of Rover cars remains in doubt, BMW is romping ahead and expects
to crack 1,000 new sales for the first time in New Zealand this year. It has
already pre-sold the first shipments of new BMW Compacts even though the model
does not go on local sale until September.

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