British automotive component suppliers look set to lose out whether or not Rover’s Longbridge plant is saved, it emerged this week.
Rover said it plans to buy more components outside Britain, whatever the fate of Longbridge.
This week Longbridge’s immediate future continued to hang in the balance, following the resignation of Rover-supporting BMW chairman Bernd Pischetsreider from the German parent’s board last week.
Industry secretary Stephen Byers called on BMW to honour the rescue deal struck with the workforce before Christmas.
But speaking at the Rover 75 launch, before the BMW boardroom coup, Rover sales and marketing director Tom Purvis admitted that the UK content of Rover cars would inevitably decrease. This would be driven by the need to break even by next year-end and to cut costs by £400m over three years, as well as by continuing concerns over the strength of sterling.
‘We can no longer suffer the strong pound. Around half our UK suppliers have overseas facilities it’s an opportunity for them to use their international base,’ said Nick Stephenson, Rover’s director of design and engineering.
He said the 75 had a UK content of 75% compared with 85% across the group as a whole. The company expects to buy more components from mainland Europe in future.
Martin Lane, sales manager of Birmingham-based Wilco, which supplies parts and sub-assemblies to Rover’s Longbridge, Oxford and Solihull plants, called the policy ‘disappointing’, but added that part of the problem lay with uncompetitive UK suppliers. Lane also warned that proposals to centralise purchasing would hit UK suppliers: ‘A Munich buyer won’t have heard of companies like Wilco in Birmingham.’