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Renaissance: Life After Rover

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Land Rover

Renaissance: Life After Rover

Anthony Fontanelle
September 22, 2007

Is there really life after death? And if so, will that apply to Land Rover - one of Ford Motor Corp.’s European brands?

After a terrible crash brought about by sales doldrums, unappealing product lines and weak economy, the European automaker intends to celebrate a brand new life free from the previous mistakes and miscalculations. But is such renaissance available for the automaker?

Cobra is just one of the Midlands motor components manufacturers to prove there is life after death. Closure loomed when MG Rover, one of Cobra’s biggest customers, finally crashed two years ago amid considerably acrimony and bitterness, wrote Roland Gribben. The Shrewsbury-based maker of interior trims, sun blinds and space covers saw a quarter of its turnover disappear almost overnight as the fall-out from the end of Rover spread throughout the region.

Now Cobra has opened its second factory over the West Midlands border in Welshpool and doubled the size of its workforce to 18 after filling in the gaps left by Rover by breaking into new markets, including China, the report continued.

“We had a lot of sleepless nights when MG Rover went. We only had nine employees at the time and were on short-time working. The lessons we learned are to innovate, speculate and get off your backside. There’s no point in sitting there and cursing things you can’t always control,” recollected Gary Seale, the managing director of the company.

Currently, Cobra intends to expand its workforce to more than 80 over the next four years. Turnover this year has jumped fourfold to £2.5m. Cobra’s renaissance, helped by support and advice from Accelerate, the EU-funded and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce managed business improvement programme, typifies the way suppliers responded to the post-Rover challenge. All told, 11 businesses with Rover ties went under but the casualty list could have been longer.

“Companies have been refocusing their activities and changing the way they behaved,” said Ian Smith, EEF West Midlands’ director.

According to the Telegraph, the British daily, strenuous efforts are being made to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture. The most recent efforts, so far, include Tag Guard, a Lincolnshire based supplier of security equipment qualified for £70,000 from the East Midlands Development agency’s selective finance programme to support a £700,000 investment to double in size. R5 Pharmaceuticals of Nottingham, won an £18,000 grant from the agency to support a £195,000 expansion programme.

The manufacturer of the Land Rover Range Rover 4.2 radiator with 9,500 on its payroll expects sales to top 200,000 this year. Jaguar Cars, Land Rover’s sibling in the Premiere Automotive Group, is also undergoing another strategic market shift. The Big Cat in the auto industry will strive to lure more than 60,000 shoppers for a model range. The company is also expected to attract 200,000 shoppers annually.

Ford, the parent company of Land Rover and Jaguar, intends to focus on its core American brands hence, the decision to offer for sale some of its European brands. The Dearborn-based automaker is still in the process of contemplating whether to include in the upcoming sale its Scandinavian brand Volvo Cars.

Land Rover has the image of rugged and mean road machines. This is the reason why its product lines are much-loved by auto buffs. This image will give the European brand the staying power and the will to survive despite the ongoing adversities.

Source:  Amazines.com

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