He has set up Ateco UK, which is in talks with Chinese manufacturers about importing their cars to the UK. Rourke hopes to sign terms with one or two companies within the next 18 months. A UK launch is two to five years away.
“I have spent the last couple of years going to China and talking to the manufacturers,” he said. “There are probably half a dozen looking to come to the UK.”
Ateco has been formed with three other shareholders. Richard Mackay was a colleague of Rourke at Jeep importer TKM prior to its acquisition by Inchcape, where be became head of its Maranello Ferrari operation. Paul Slaymaker previously owned an ad agency and ran the Chrysler global ad account while Rourke was DaimlerChrysler European vice-president of sales.
The fourth, and most interesting, shareholder is Neville Crichton, the Australian businessman linked with a move on HR Owen. Crichton brings the Australian market into play for prospective Chinese partners.
“With the UK and Australia, we have put the two biggest right-hand drive markets together,” said Rourke. “It gives any Chinese manufacturer a level of volume to help developments for these markets.”
Rourke’s second venture is an automotive consultancy firm set up with Mackay and Slaymaker. This business will offer an independent, unbiased look at manufacturers’ global operations, offering strategic help.