We'll Play the Wild Rover No More; If German Management Methods Are So Marvellous, How Come BMW Is Making Such a Pig's Ear of Rover?

By Hastilow, Nigel | The Birmingham Post (England), October 22, 1998 | Go to article overview

We'll Play the Wild Rover No More; If German Management Methods Are So Marvellous, How Come BMW Is Making Such a Pig's Ear of Rover?


Hastilow, Nigel, The Birmingham Post (England)


OK so Germany (West) has been the best-performing economy since the end of the Second World War. OK so if we'd adopted a few of their working methods in the 60s and 70s we might be a stronger manufacturing nation today.

OK, so our unions brought British industry to its knees and denied managers the chance to manage and brought British Leyland to its knees. But if German management methods are so marvellous, how come BMW is making such a pig's ear of Rover?

When the Bavarian Motor Works took over Rover, it was considered to be the only possible solution to the company's long-term woes.

Never mind that in flogging it of British Aerospace and the Government reneged on the deal to keep the company in British ownership and never mind that they also shafted Honda, with whom Rover had been doing quite nicely.

BMW with its up-market image and its solid, dependable - though dull - reputation was to take Rover into a new era. There was even talk of reviving old names like Riley, remember?

The reality is horribly different. BMW has bitten off more than it can chew. Its plans to make Rover profitable by the end of next year are looking particularly sick.

This has nothing to do with obdurate unions, militant action and Red Robbos. They disappeared in the 1980s when reality dawned and jobs disappeared. The threat to shut Longbridge, make the new Mini at Cowley and a new medium-range Rover in another countr y is the result of management incompetence and nothing else.

Mistake number one was the BMW decision to move Rover up-market. That meant charging more money for the same old cars. This is not likely to be terribly successful when the cars aren't as good as the competition.

But whenever new figures came out announcing Rover had lost more of its market share in this country, BMW claimed it was good news because the company was looking to make more profit from each vehicle so selling fewer of them was all part of the strategy . …

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