- Rover Company
Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = Rover Company
fate = Merged
foundation = 1904
defunct = 1986
location = flagicon|UK
Coventry, West Midlands flagicon|UK Solihull, West Midlands
industry = Automotive
John Kemp Starley& William Sutton(Founders)
parent = flagicon|UK
Leyland Motor Corporationflagicon|UK British Leyland Motor Corporation
subsid =The Rover Company was a British
motor vehiclemanufacturing company originating in Coventryin 1904, which moved to Solihullafter World War II. Following absorption by Leyland Motorsin 1967, and subsequent mergers, the Rover Company retained its identity as a subsidiary of British Leylandthrough the 1970s and into the 1980s. The Rover marquesurvived the break-up of British Leyland, and sell-off into private ownership, being used as the primary brand of the Rover Groupas it passed, first through the hands of British Aerospace, and then into the ownership of BMW. In 2000 BMW sold much of the mass-market car activities of the Rover Group to the Phoenix Consortium who established it as the MG Rover Group. However, BMW retained ownership of the Rover brand, allowing MG Rover to use it under licence. In April 2005 Rover branded cars ceased to be produced when MG Rover became insolvent. In July 2005 the Nanjing Automobile Groupacquired the physical assets and tooling of MG Rover, although SAIC already owned certain intellectual property, with plans to resume production of MG Rover car designs in China and at Longbridge, in 2007. On September 18, 2006BMW sold the Rover brand name to the Ford Motor Companyfor approximately £6 million. Ford wanted it in order to protect their Land Roverbrand. [cite news | last = Doran | first =James | title = Ford pays £6m for Rover marque | publisher = The Times | date = 2006-09-19 | url = http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,9067-2364242,00.html | accessdate =2006-09-19] Ford had acquired an option of first refusal to buy the Rover brand as a result of its purchase of Land Roverfrom BMW in 2000. In March 2008, Ford reached agreement with Tata Motorsof India to include the Rover brand as part of the sale of their Jaguar Land Rover operations to them. [cite news |title=Tata gets trio of Brit marque names as part of JLR buy |date= 2008-03-28|author=Kirill Ougarov |publisher=Source Interlink Media |work=Motor Trend |url=http://wot.motortrend.com/6236065/auto_news/tata_gets_trio_of_brit_marque_names_as_part_of_jlr_buy/index.html |accessdate=2008-04-08]
The first Rover was a
tricyclemanufactured by Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry, England in 1883. The company was founded by John Kemp Starleyand William Sutton in 1878. Starley had formerly worked with his uncle James Starley (father of the cycle trade) who began in manufacturing sewing machines and switched to bicycles in 1869.
In the early 1880s the cycles available were the relatively dangerous
penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. J. K. Starley made history in 1885 by producing the Rover Safety Bicycle—a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high wheeled designs. Cycling Magazine said the Rover had 'set the pattern to the world' and the phrase was used in their advertising for many years. Starley's Rover is usually described by historians as the first recognisably modern bicycle. The words for "bicycle" in Polish ("Rower") and Belarusian ("Rovar", Ро́вар) are derived from the name of this company.
Early Rover cars
In 1888 Starley made an electric car, but it never was put into production.
, who had also been at Hillman, as chief engineer in 1930. Spencer Wilks stayed with the company until 1962 and his brother until 1963.
World War II and gas turbines
In the late 1930s, in anticipation of potential hostilities which would become
World War II, the British government started a re-armament programme and as part of this "Shadow Factories" were built. These were paid for by the government but staffed and run by private companies. Two were run by Rover, one at Acocks Green, Birmingham started operation in 1937 and a second larger one at Solihullstarted in 1940. Both were employed making aero engines and airframes. The original main works at Helen Street, Coventry was severely damaged by bombing in 1940 and 1941 and never regained full production.
In early 1940 Rover were approached by the government to support
Frank Whittlein developing the gas turbine engine. Whittle's company, Power Jetshad no production facilities and the intention was for Rover to take the design and develop it for mass production. Whittle himself was not pleased by this and did not like design changes made without his approval but the first test engines to the W2B design were built in a disused cotton mill in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, in October 1941. Rolls-Royce took an interest in the new technology and an agreement was reached in 1942 that they would take over the engines and Barnoldswick works and in exchange Rover would get the contract for making Meteor tank engines which actually continued until 1964.
After the Second World War, the company abandoned Helen Street and bought the two Shadow Factories. Acocks Green carried on for a while making Meteor engines for tanks and Solihull became the new centre for vehicles with production resuming in 1947 and would become the home of the
In 1950, designer F. R. Bell and Chief Engineer Maurice Wilks unveiled the first car powered with a
gas turbineengine, based upon the designs of Frank Whittle's Power Jetscompany. The two-seater JET1 had the engine positioned behind the seats, air intake grilles on either side of the car and exhaust outlets on the top of the tail. During tests, the car reached top speeds of 88 mph (140 km/h), at a turbine speed of 50,000 rpm. The car ran on petrol, paraffinor dieseloil, but fuel consumption problems proved insurmountable for a production car. It is currently on display at the London Science Museum. Rover and the BRM Formula One team joined forces to produce a gas turbine powered coupe, which entered the 1963 24 hours of Le Mans, driven by Graham Hilland Richie Ginther. It averaged 107.8 mph (173 km/h) and had a top speed of 142 mph (229 km/h).
Rover also ran several experimental
diesel engineprojects in relation to the Land Rover. The 2-litre, convert|52|hp diesel unit designed and built by Rover for its 4x4had entered production in 1956 and was one of Britain's first modern high-speed automotive diesel engines. Experimental projects were undertaken to improve the engine's power delivery, running qualities and fuel tolerances. British Armyrequirements led to the development of a multi-fuel version of the 2.25-litre variant of the engine in 1962, which could run on petrol, diesel, Jet-Aor kerosene. However, the engine's power output when running on low-grade fuel was too low for the Army's uses. Rover developed a highly advanced (for the time) turbodieselversion of its engine in the mid 1960s to power its experimental '129-inch' heavy duty Land Roverdesigns. This 2.5-litre engine used a turbochargerbuilt by Rover's gas turbine division, as well as an intercooler. This was one of the first times these features had been incorporated on such a small-capacity diesel unit, but were not adopted.
The 1950s and '60s were fruitful years for the company, with the
Land Roverbecoming a runaway success (despite Rover's reputation for making up-market saloons, the utilitarian Land Rover was actually the company's biggest seller throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s), as well as the P5 and P6 saloons equipped with a 3.5L (215ci) aluminium V8, the design and tooling of which was purchased from Buick, and pioneering research into gas turbine fuelled vehicles.
Mergers to form British Leyland
In 1967, Rover became part of the
Leyland Motor Corporation(LMC), which already owned Triumph. The next year, LMC merged with the British Motor Holdings(BMH) to become the British Leyland Motor Corporationthis was the beginning of the end for the independent Rover Company, as the Solihull based company's heritage drowned beneath the infamous industrial relations and managerial problems that beset the British motor industry throughout the 1970s. At various times it was part of the Specialist Division (hence the factory designation SD1 for the first—and in the event, only—model produced under this arrangement), Rover-Triumph, and Jaguar Rover Triumph.
In 1970, Rover combined its skill in producing comfortable saloons and the rugged Land Rover 4x4 to produce the
Range Rover, one of the first cars (albeit possibly inspired by the earlier Jeep Wagoneer and IH Scout) to combine off-road ability and comfortable versatility. Powered by the ex-Buick V8 engine, it had innovative features such as a permanent 4 wheel drivesystem, all- coil springsuspension and disc brakes on all wheels. Able to reach speeds of up to convert|100|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on, yet also capable of extreme off-road use, the original Range Rover design was to remain in production for the next 26 years.
As British Leyland struggled through financial turmoil and an industrial-relations crisis during the 1970s, it was effectively nationalized after a multi-billion-pound government cash injection in 1975.
Michael Edwardeswas brought in to head the company.
Rover SD1of 1976 was an excellent car, but was beset with so many build quality and reliability issues that it never delivered its great promise. Following the closure of the Triumph factory at Canleyproduction of the Triumph TR7and Triumph TR8was moved to Solihull but soon after a savage programme of cutbacks in the late 1970s led to the end of car production at the Solihull factory which was turned over for Land Rover production only. The TR7/8 model was discontinued while SD1 production moved to Cowley. All future Rover cars would be made in the former Austin and Morris plants in Longbridge and Cowley, respectively.
Rover and Honda
In 1979, British Leyland (or as it was now officially known, BL Ltd) began a long relationship with the
HondaMotor Company of Japan. The result was a cross-holding structure where Honda took a 20 percent stake in the company while the company took a 20 percent stake in Honda's U.K. subsidiary. The deal was thought to be mutually beneficial: Honda used its British operations as a launchpad into Europe, and the company can pool resources with Honda in developing new cars. Austin Rover Groupwas formed in 1982 as the mass-market car manufacturing subsidiary of BL, with the separate Rover Company becoming effectively defunct.In the 1980s, the slimmed-down BL used the Rover brand on a range of cars co-developed with Honda. The first Honda-sourced Rover model, released in 1984 was the Rover 200, which, like the Triumph Acclaimthat it replaced, was based on the Honda Ballade. (Similarly, in Australia, the Honda Quint(known in Europe as the Quintet) and Integra were badged as the Rover Quintet and 416i.)
The Rover brand name lives on
By 1986, Austin Rover had moved to a one-marque strategy, using only the Rover brand, and its parent BL, was renamed as the
Rover Group, with the car division becoming Rover Cars.In 1986, the Rover SD1 was replaced by the Rover 800, developed with the Honda Legend. The Austin range were now technically Rovers, though the word "Rover" never actually appeared on the badging — there was instead a badge similar to the Rover Viking shape, without wording. These were replaced by the Rover 400 and Rover 600, based on Honda's Concerto and Accord.
Rover exported Rover 800s, badged as Sterlings, to the United States from 1987 to 1992.
British Aerospace ownership of the brand name
In 1988, the Rover brand went back into private hands when the Rover Group was acquired by
BMW ownership of the brand name
The Honda partnership proved to be the turn-around point for the company, steadily rebuilding its image to the point where once again Rover branded cars were seen as upmarket alternatives to Fords and Vauxhalls. In 1994 British Aerospace sold the Rover Group, including the "Rover",
Land Rover, Riley, Mini, Triumph and Austin-Healeybrands to BMW, who had begun to see Rover branded cars as potential major competitors. Under BMW, the Rover Group developed the Rover 75as a retro designed car influenced by the earlier Rover P4and P5 designs.
In 2000, BMW split-up the Rover Group, selling
Land Roverto the Ford Motor Companyfor an estimated sum of £1.8 billion, retaining the MINI operations, and selling the rest of the car business to the Phoenix Consortium, who established it as MG Rover. Interestingly, although BMW included ownership of the MG brand in the deal, they retained ownership of the Rover brand, licensing its use to the new "MG Rover" company, for use on the ongoing car models that they had acquired.
MG Rover licensing of the brand name
A specially-assembled group of businessmen, known as the
Phoenix Consortium, and headed by ex-Rover Chief Executive John Towers, established the MG Rover Groupfrom the former "Rover Group" car operations, acquired from BMW for a nominal £10 in May 2000, and continued to use the Rover brand under licence from BMW.
The year before its break-up, the Rover Group had made losses of an estimated £800million. The four business men who took control of the newly-formed MG Rover Group are reported to have received around £430million in a dowry from BMW which included unsold stock.
The first new Rover branded car to be launched after the formation of MG Rover was the estate version of the
Rover 75, which went on sale later in 2000. In 2003, MG Rover launched the CityRover—an entry-level model which was produced in a venture with Indian carmaker Tata, but failed badly to sell as it was overpriced for the level of equipment if offered. Had MG Rover re-engineered and 'Roverised' the Indica to a higher degree and priced it more sensibly, it may have been much more successful. Several concept cars intended as eventual replacements for the Rover 25and 45 were shown in the early 2000s, but never went into production.
MG Rover production ceased on April 15th 2005, when it was declared insolvent. On
22 July 2005, the physical assets of the collapsed firm were sold to the Nanjing Automobile Groupfor £53m, who indicated that their preliminary plans involved relocating the Powertrain engine plant to China while splitting car production into Rover lines in China and resumed MG lines in the West Midlands (though not necessarily at Longbridge), where a UK R&D and technical facility would also be developed.
On May 30, 2007,
Nanjing Automobile Groupclaimed to have restarted production of MG TF sports cars in the Longbridge plant; with sales expected to begin in the Autumn. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation(SAIC), who held the intellectual property of Rover 75 car design (bought for £67m before MG Rover collapsed) and was also bidding for MG Rover, announced their own version of the Rover 75 in late 2006. On July 2006, SAIC announced their intent to buy the Rover brand name from BMW(who still owned the rights to the Rover marque). [cite news |url=http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlebusiness.aspx?type=businessNews&storyid=2006-08-16T040422Z_01_L15102426_RTRUKOC_0_UK-AUTOS-ROVER.xml&src=rss |title=BMW agrees to sell Rover brand to SAIC |publisher=Reuters |accessdate=2006-08-16] However, BMW refused their request due an agreement that the Ford had reached with them, to be given first option on the brand, when it acquired Land Rover. Unable to use the Rover name, SAIC created their own brand with a similar name and badge, known as Roewe. Roewe was eventually launched in early 2007.
Ford Motor Company ownership of the brand name
Ford had first option to purchase the Rover brand name if MG Rover ceased trading, a right which had been negotiated when the Land Rover brand was bought from
BMW. This right was exercised on 18 September 2006. [cite web |title=Ford buys Rover brand name from BMW |url=http://www.leftlanenews.com/2006/09/18/ford-buys-rover-brand-name-from-bmw] No Rover branded cars were produced whilst Ford owned the brand and, in a further twist, Tata Motors now owns the brand that was used for the ill-fated CityRovermodel, a rebadged Tata Indicamarketed by MG Rover under license in the UK Market from 2003 to 2005.
Tata Motors ownership of the brand name
As part of Ford's agreement to sell their Jaguar
Land Roveroperations to Tata Motors, the Rover brand name was included in the deal. [cite web | url=http://www.leftlanenews.com/5-for-2-special-tata-acquires-3-other-british-marques-in-jaguar-land-rover-deal.html#more-6922 |title=5 for 2 special: Tata acquires 3 other British marques in Jaguar, Land Rover deal |publisher=Leftlane News |date=28 March 2008 |accessdate = 2008-03-28]
Launched under the independent Rover Company pre-merger (1904–1967)
Rover Light Six
* 1930-1934 Rover Meteor 16HP/20HP
Rover Speed 20
* 1932-1933 Rover Pilot/Speed Pilot
* 1934-1947 Rover 14/Speed 14
* 1948-1978 Land Rover (I/II/III)—In 1978 BL established Land Rover Limited as a separate subsidiary—it took over Land Rover production.
* 1948-1949 Rover P3 (60/75)
* 1949-1964 Rover P4 (60/75/80/90/95/100/105/110)
* 1958-1973 Rover P5 (3-Litre/3.5-Litre)
* 1963-1976 Rover P6 (2000/2200/3500)
Launched under the Rover Company as a LMC/BL subsidiary (1967–1986)
Range Rover—In 1978 BL established Land Rover Limited as a separate subsidiary—it took over Range Rover production.
* 1976-1986 Rover SD1 (2000/2300/2400/2600/3500/Vitesse)
* 1984-1999 Rover 200 (211/213/214/216/218/220)
Rover 416i—Australian market
Pre-existing models re-branded under the Rover Group (1986–2000)
Rover branded models launched under the Rover Group (1986–2000)
* Family cars
** 1992-1998 Rover 200 Coupe (216/218/220/220 Turbo)
** 1990-2000 Rover 400 (414/416/418/420)
** 1993-1999 Rover 600 (618/620/623 and 620ti)
Rover branded models launched under MG Rover (2000–2005)
* Mini/Supermini cars
** 2003-2005 CityRover
* Family cars
** 2003-2005 Rover Commerce [ [http://www.austin-rover.co.uk/index.htm?lcvcdvf.htm Austin Rover Online ] ]
Austin Rover Group
MG Rover Group
Nanjing Automobile Group
* [http://www.mg-rover.pt.vu Portuguese MG-Rover Club]
* [http://www.roverki.pl Polish MG Rover Club]
* [http://www.clubmg-rover.com Spanish site of MG-ROVER]
* [http://www.roverclub.cz Czech MG-Rover Community]
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