Magazine article Marketing

Can Rover Overtake BMW?

Magazine article Marketing

Can Rover Overtake BMW?

Article excerpt

The Rover 600 launch is a bid for quality over quantity -- burying its British Leyland past and setting its sights on BMW

Rover this week puts the final seal on a corporate overhaul that began with the launch of its 200 series nine years ago.

The Rover 600, an "upper-medium" segment car, is unveiled this week and goes on sale from April 20. Priced from |pounds~14,000 to |pounds~22,000, it features six different models, four with two-litre engines, two with 2.3-litre engines.

The result of a |pounds~200m investment at Rover's Cowley plant and developed once again in conjunction with Honda, the car will compete aggressively against the BMW 3-Series, the Audi 80 and the Mercedes 190.

But by far the most important of the competitors is the BMW. This is what the new-look Rover Group, the third biggest player in the UK after Ford and Vauxhall, aspires to as it accelerates away from the demons of its British Leyland past. It is seeking quality over quantity, margins over market share -- in the same week that the industry reported a 13% rise in March car sales, the sixth consecutive month of improvement.

The 600 will be targeted squarely at the company car driver. But while its big brother the 800, launched in 1986 and revamped in 1991, is aimed at middle-aged executives, the 600, which borrows its distinctive grille, is out to woo young execs and the yuppie brigade.

Its advantage over the BMW, says a Rover spokesman, is that the car is roomier and will include more extras -- like central door locking, power steering, alarm systems, airbags on the top two models -- within the list price. The German manufacturer has a reputation for the length of its optional extras lists.

The launch of the 600 this week, which coincides with Ford's new Mondeo and Vauxhall's new Corsa, will be backed by a high-profile ad campaign from "integrated" marketing services agency Kevin Morley Marketing.

The TV work is out to stress how rare a sight the Rover 600 will be -- and by implication, how common BMWs have become. Two 600s are seen driving around on deserted roads. Before they pass each other and flash their lights in surprised greeting, the viewer sees lightning strike twice in the same place, which becomes the cue for the endline.

But a BMW spokesman is unimpressed: "We're very aware of the competition and there are some very good cars out there," he says. "But as far as exclusivity goes, in our book it is not judged by the number of cars on the road. It has more to do with the total ownership package that the customer receives."

The upper-medium sector accounted for 460,000 cars last year. …

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