Longbridge decision in two weeks’ time

Rover engineering bosses are hoping this week that a quick decision about Rover’s future will reverse a drift of design staff away to competitors. A decision on the future of the Longbridge plant is expected within two weeks. In a speech at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday, BMW chairman Joachim Milberg stressed BMW’s commitment […]

Rover engineering bosses are hoping this week that a quick decision about Rover’s future will reverse a drift of design staff away to competitors.

A decision on the future of the Longbridge plant is expected within two weeks.

In a speech at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday, BMW chairman Joachim Milberg stressed BMW’s commitment to remaining ‘in all sections in all markets’.

Milberg said Rover’s problems lay only with its car division. His only comment on replacing the 200 and 400 series was: ‘There will be successors at the right time for all the products we offer today.’

In a separate statement, new Rover chairman Werner Samann reportedly set out a Rover recovery plan based on new products, higher quality and raised productivity. He promised a revised 200/400 range later this year.

Engineers have been leaving Rover ever since the uncertainty about Longbridge’s future emerged last October. This was followed by a brief power struggle in BMWs board, which saw the departure of engineering supremo Wolfgang Reitzle as well as Rover boss Bernt Pischetsrieder.

Midlands-based Peugeot and Cosworth are both seeking to recruit numerous engineers and are benefiting from the Rover drift.

Nick Stephenson, Rover director of design and engineering, said turnover among design and engineering staff had been between 5 and 10%, but added that this was only slightly above average. ‘I wouldn’t pretend we haven’t lost a few people to the competition, but it’s not a situation of people leaving in droves.’

Stephenson said there were ‘good reasons to be optimistic’ about the future of the group.