MG Rover is plans to grow the retail network from 270 to 300 in the UK this year and has already held a series of discussions with major fleets to show them its product plans as it looks to grow sales to more than 100,000 units.
Group product development director Rob Aldaker believes block exemption offers real opportunities to companies like MG Rover, because its cars can be sold in multi-franchised outlets, which will improve awareness of the brand and encourage more sales. “There has been a lot of dealer recruitment and there is a lot more to come,” he says. “The real breakthrough we are seeing is through changes to block exemption and mutli-franchising, where in some cases, we can end up with half a showroom.”
Last year, MG Rover sold just under 96,000 cars in the UK, down from 99,000 in 2002. The company has been bombarded with stories in the national press attacking its finances and accusing senior executives of restructuring the company for their own personal financial gain.
But sales of MG models are rising. The MGTF grew from 7,500 to 9,000 last year, making it the best-selling sports car for the seventh year in a row. The ZT grew from 4,700 to 6,000 and the ZR from 12,900 to 16,000. MGR admits that Rover has been performing poorly, but it points out the focus of attention in the past was on developing MG – now it is Rover's turn.
Next year, UK sales are expected to hit 110,000, helped by the CityRover. The company is looking to update the Rover 45 over the next year, and says there could be more innovations ahead.
“Our engineers can innovate and where we see specific markets, we can develop products to suit them,” says Aldaker. “We will develop niche products that make the most of our heritage.”