After the Rover disaster, are Quandts nervous about Rolls investment?
While BMW was holding a press conference in Munich on March 17 to answer questions about its sale of Rover, members of the BMW Project Rolls-Royce team were visiting the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club and the Sir Henry Royce Royce Foundation in Paulerspury, England. They were reportedly in an upbeat mood.
The team has been visiting Paulerspury repeatedly to research the roots of the marque BMW bought in 1998. BMW spokesman Fritz Fruth says the chaos surrounding Rover has absolutely no bearing on BMW's plans for Rolls-Royce and that BMW remains committed to Rolls-Royce for the long term.
BMW is reportedly leaning toward Derby as the site for a new Rolls-Royce factory and looking at the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, made from 1955-1966, as a strong source of inspiration for the new car it will begin producing in 2003.
But BMW faces a backlash in Britain over the way it has handled the Rover situation, and rumor had it the Quandt family was also beginning to get nervous about pouring more money into the UK, where it must build the Rolls-Royce factory, find workers to staff it and design the new car. BMW says Project Rolls-Royce completed styling sketches of the car in London back in January. They are now working on details of the program at various places within BMW's empire.
A surplus of minis at new Fiat-General Motors (and what about Daewoo?)
Some intriguing issues will face GM and Fiat as a result of the recent alliance - none more ironic than their future minicar strategy. Both Fiat and GM make minis in Poland (the Seicento, and the new Opel/Vauxhall Agila). But, if GM buys Daewoo, it will effectively have three factories producing minis in the same country (Daewoo produces the Matiz in Poland for sale throughout Europe). This will not be the first time that Fiat executives have had to consider what to do with the Matiz. The stylish, one-box mini was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign as the replacement for the Fiat Cinquecento. Fiat turned it down in favor of its own boxy, comparatively conservative design which became the Seicento. Many car stylists think Fiat made the wrong decision. The Matiz is easily Daewoo's most popular car in Europe, and has considerably helped the Korean company improve its staid image here. Booming Matiz sales have also played their part in the deterioration of Fiat's small-car market share in Italy over the past 18 months.
Don't expect Ian Gibson to rescue Rover
Now that Ian Gibson has retired as president of Nissan Europe, some say he is the right man to run Alchemy Partners' 'MG Car Co.' But Gibson already turned down a chance to run Rover under much more favorable circumstances. BMW offered the German-speaker the Rover job in 1995. Who knows what would have happened had Gibson accepted. Would the man who made Nissan's Sunderland, England, plant the most efficient in Europe have turned Rover's Longbridge plant into a lean manufacturing machine? Gibson is probably glad he said no the first time and almost certainly would say no again.
Jac Nasser: Jaguar was `as-is' deal
When Ford Motor Co. CEO Jac Nasser announced that his company would buy Land Rover, he said Ford still has to go over Land Rover's books very carefully, performing so-called due diligence. A reporter asked what lessons Ford had learned doing due diligence for the 1989 acquisition of Jaguar. A laughing Nasser replied: 'What due diligence at Jaguar?' That deal, he explained, was take-it-as-it-is. 'It was walk-in, walk-out,' Nasser said. 'We walked in, they walked out, we handed over a sum of money. If you call that due diligence that's what it was.'
Reitzle gets what he wants, Land Rover may get what it needs
Sources say Premier Automotive Group Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle could hardly contain his joy at the prospect of adding Land Rover to Ford's luxury-car fold. But the future Premier unit could expect a rough going-over from the ex-BMW executive. While at BMW - and serving as Rover Group Chairman for a period - Reitzle was a strong supporter of Land Rover. But he argued against the hands-off treatment of Rover and Land Rover that former BMW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder demanded at the time. Reitzle wanted to do more to improve Land Rover quality and raise its development standards. He is expected to be more hands-on this time.