Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Rover: Your Bank Manager's Car

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Rover: Your Bank Manager's Car

Article excerpt

Yet again, Britain is tolling the death knell of its own car industry. Rover is no more, overwhelmed by smaller, smarter Japanese motors, much as the journalists who write about it are overwhelmed by funereal cliche. Though its instinct for self-preservation (the one asset that Phoenix hasn't sold) made Rover go belly up in the middle of an election campaign, few seem to want the government to shovel much more money at it. More people got excited about the demise of Heinz Salad Cream.


Because really, beyond sympathy for the tens of thousands whose livelihoods depend on Rover, it is very hard to care. For decades, Rover has been the car that someone else drives: your neighbour, your uncle, your bank manager, Terry out of Terry and June, people you don't wanna be. It is the most uncool marque on the road. Or, very often, not on the road, its natural habitat being the paved-over front gardens of the suburbs.

Its badge, when you look at it closely (which I bet you never have, until now), is a Viking longship. That's the image of Rover. Ragnar Hairybreeks, blood still dripping from his war axe, gets out of his Rover 3500 and calls out: "Hello, darling, I've brought Sigurd Snake-Eye home for dinner. He'll take pot luck."

In reality, Rover stands not for excitement and plunder, but for authority; and authority is dead. We are a nation of people who want to be Richmal Crompton's William, and Rovers are condemned to be driven by Mr Brown.

It is hard to be on the wrong end of a social revolution. Not only do you end up looking a bit of a Charlie, but your death becomes a case study; a doomed organisation withers away as its clientele dies off. "How could they not see it coming?" we ask. Unfortunately, it is all too possible to sleepwalk to one's doom, and Rover isn't the only guilty one. …

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