Peter Beale, vice-chairman of Phoenix Venture Holdings, the owner of the loss-making company, said that MG Rover would have broken even last year if police and other public-sector organisations had followed a "buy British" policy. Last week, MG Rover reported £77m losses for 2003.
Beale said that losses for 2004 would be higher than last year, although the company is implementing a cost-saving programme, which should see it break even in 2005.
Beale says: "If we had the extra sales from police forces and other public sectors, it would have made the difference between losing money and breaking even."
While European competitors are bound by the same EU competition rules on open tendering, he said that in practice selling cars to public sector institutions in countries like France was not possible.
"We are not looking for handouts," Beale continued. "We are a business. But we want the same rules to apply in Europe as at home. All we are asking for is a level playing field with competitors in Europe."
Beale said that only two police authorities in the UK were supportive of MG Rover, buying several dozen Rover cars since Phoenix bought the company from parent BMW for £10 in 2000.
Beale said West Midlands Police, whose jurisdiction covers MG Rover's plant at Longbridge, bought only one Rover car in three years, yet officers regularly rang up to ask if cars could be supplied for free trials. They had returned the compact Rover Streetwise car they had been trialling, explaining it was "too fast", he said.
A spokeswoman from West Midlands Police said: "We are currently in negotiations with Rover and are testing its latest model. But police cars have to go through rigorous testing."
(Source: The Independent)