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MG Rover takes first step to rebuilding main brand

MG Rover believes the launch of the 75 Tourer signals an important moment in its plan to revive the company, just over one year after it was bought from BMW for a symbolic £10.

The upper-medium sector estate car is the first of a series of new models from the company to go on sale this summer and takes it into a new market segment, offering sales chances for dealers.

Kevin Howe, MG Rover chief executive, said: “Rover 75 Tourer marks our first step in the restructuring of the Rover brand. It is the first major Rover product since forming the new company and will bring incremental business to our brand in a growing market across Europe.”

He said the company would make a decision “quite imminently” about a joint venture partnership for development of its next small medium car, due in 2004. Although “a lot of options” remain open, once again he gave a strong hint the engineers would like to base the new car on a shortened version of the Rover 75 platform. MG Rover has indefinite rights to use the platform and suspension, originally developed by BMW.

“If we could make that work, it would be a strong proposition,” said Mr Howe. “It certainly seems to work for the Alfa Romeo 147.”

The company expects the Tourer to take around 25% of total 75-range sales and most of that to be incremental volume. Across Europe as a whole it is planning to sell around 50,000 75s in a full year, of which 16,000 would be Tourers. The estate is expected to be especially popular in Germany, Italy and Holland where estate cars make up between 30% and 40% of all upper medium sector sales.

In the domestic market the Tourer is expected to add around 4,500 units to a projected 17,000 saloon sales in a full year.

The decision to build an estate car version of the 75 was taken early in the development cycle and the new car shares many of the features, including trim levels and engine line-up, of the saloon. The rear load area has a maximum capacity of more than 1,200 litres and features a double-hatch tailgate for quick access to smaller loads.

Suspension has been stiffened to cope with higher load carrying and brakes are also uprated. A self-levelling rear suspension will be optional.

Rob Oldaker, MG Rover product director, said he was “always on the look out to increase power” and confirmed the company was talking to a new supplier, believed to be PSA Peugeot Citroen, about more sporting diesel engines.

Prices for the 75 Tourer have been set £950 above the equivalent saloon models, starting at £17,445 for a 1.8-litre Classic.

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