A boost for Rover

Rover received an unexpected boost as new car sales figures showed a 117% rise in sales for the marque in April, the month when BMW announced it was up for sale.

Sales of Rovers increased from 10,500 in April 1999 to 22,700 in April 2000 against a background of falling sales in the car market generally, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

Rover was the second-best-selling brand with a market share of 13.5%, not far behind the traditional leader, Ford, which took 14.5%. Rover’s 25 model was the month’s best seller, while the 75 took fifth place.

Some commentators suggested the rise in sales was due to discounts, with Rover effectively buying market share at the expense of its own profitability.

It could also reflect feelings of loyalty on the part of consumers as the brand appeared threatened.

The Phoenix consortium, which is bidding to buy Rover, will hope that the rise is more permanent as it negotiates with banks to secure funding for its bid. Phoenix plans to keep mass production at Rover’s Longbridge plant, and any sign that Rover is recovering in the mass car market will make Phoenix’s bid more attractive.

UK-made cars gained ground on imports for the second month running. The market share of imports fell to its lowers level since June 1998, at 65.6%.

But the SMMT is predicting a drop in UK production and a rise in imports due to the prolonged weakness of the euro. It has scaled back its forecast for cars manufactured in the UK in 2000 from 1.8m units to 1.65m. The market for cars is expected to stay stable at 2.2m.