Rover plans to launch `tough’ MG variants

Rover plans to start introducing MG derivatives of its saloons within a year, while `toughening up’ the MG brand with input from race car specialist Lola.

In his first interview since the Phoenix consortium bought Rover, acting joint chief executive Nick Stephenson told The Engineer of the need to add excitement to the Rover values of comfort and relaxation.

`We’ve got to add a sharp edge, and that will be done by MG,’ said Stephenson. `The cars must be totally credible, so they’re not going to be bland badged versions of Rover saloons. They will be genuine MGs.’

He said he had set a `challenging’ target of starting to introduce the derivatives within a year.

The MG brand will also be toughened with input from Lola, where Stephenson is a director. `I can already see how we could bring Lola’s expertise to a top-of-the-line MG in each derivative, and maybe some of their dynamic expertise could be brought into a really tough MG version influenced by race car technology.’

He also promised to `refresh’ the MGF, another area where Lola’s experience could help.

* Kevin Howe will be Rover’s chief executive from 1 June, taking over from Nick Stephenson and John Towers. Howe, who is currently managing director of Rolls-Royce’s fan engine systems division, was managing director of the Longbridge plant from 1997 to 1999. Rover unions are believed to have opposed his appointment.

Full Nick Stephenson interiew next week

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