Jump to content

The Irony of the CityRover


Twin-Cam
 Share

Recommended Posts

After BMW dumped MG Rover in the year 2000, things were not good.

The Rover Group had been relieved of its most valuable assets in Land Rover and MINI, being left with the new Rover 75 and the ageing 25 and 45 ranges. Land Rover had gone to Ford, to join former British Leyland stablemate Jaguar. Meanwhile the new owners of MG Rover, the Phoenix Consortium, paid a nominal sum of £10 to BMW, with £500 million going the other way to secure the short-term future of the company. Despite derision towards what BMW had done to Rover, and jubilation among the Longbridge faithful at new ownership, Rover needed new models fast. Very quickly, the Rover 75 Tourer was launched, then the facelift MG F, now known as the MG TF, and finally the new range of MG saloon cars, the ZR, ZS, and ZT, or better known as the three Rover models with some sporty bits attached. Although well received, these new MGs were not what Rover needed. Yes, they expanded the range and attracted new customers, but being based on existing cars they weren’t going to save MG Rover. It’s not as if they weren’t trying though. There were a couple of notable and interesting models in the works, such as the RDX 60, a Rover 45 replacement. The constant problem however, was cash.

rd60_08.jpg.f0d50d48aaf758265b4d9f4fece7d37b.jpg

Enter Tata. The enormous Indian conglomerate had its own city car, the Tata Indica, and Rover lapped up the opportunity to introduce a new model. Rover had been absent from this end of the market since the end of Mini and Metro production, and despite the Indica being a five year old design, it was relaunched in Britain as the CityRover in 2003. The cars were built by Tata in Pune, India, then shipped over to Britain where Rover nailed on a Viking long ship badge, some new bumpers, stiffer suspension, and quicker steering. It’s safe to say this recipe wasn’t very successful. MG Rover refused to lend a CityRover to Top Gear magazine to test, leading to one of the most iconic moments in Top Gear history, with James May going undercover to test drive a CityRover at a Rover dealer. Not only did this debacle make the CityRover something of a laughing stock, but the car itself was never going to set the world alight with its cheap interior and underwhelming characteristics, even if it was very practical and rather quick.

10_CityRover.thumb.jpg.49fb30e5a7b9f58f98655183f95f64b6.jpg

Rover didn’t have much of a say on how the car was engineered. They had originally wanted to make many more changes to the original Tata before the CityRover went on sale, but were denied. By early 2005, with sales figures disappointing everybody, Tata and Rover went about updating the CityRover to make it more desirable. By April, the new CityRovers were on the ships, headed towards Britain, and while they were sailing over, MG Rover went bust. The date was April 8th, 2005. The question lingered over what would happen to these cars. Most of them went back to Tata, but some slipped through the net and were sold by Motorpoint at a knockdown price of £3999 on the road. Amazingly, these Mk2 CityRovers sold quite well. Maybe that was due to the new trim, or maybe it was the price. MG Rover charged way over the odds for the old CityRover, and perhaps Motorpoint had found the equilibrium price. Whatever the outcome, MG Rover was dead and so was Tata’s entry into the European market. Or so we thought.

Three years later Ford was looking to offload its premium brands of Jaguar and Land Rover, with Tata being the preferred bidder. By mid-2008, Tata was the proud new owner of these two great institutions, but in a twist of fate, they also ended up with the Rover name. When MG Rover went under, Ford exercised their right to buy the name from BMW, who had been licencing it out to MG Rover until they went under in 2005. Only five years after the launch of the CityRover and Tata’s first exposure in Britain, they controlled the lot. Fast forward twelve years, and Jaguar Land Rover is producing exciting, innovative models like the Jaguar I-Pace. A world away from the little city car that Tata donated to Rover back in 2003. It’s been heavily rumoured for a few years now that Land Rover may wish to create a rebadged Jaguar XJ, known by the press as the ‘Road Rover’. So maybe, in the next few years, Tata may be launching a Rover for themselves.

If you’re at all interested, here’s my review of the CityRover: https://youtu.be/VpSQGlu6wF0

…and you can find me on YouTube here: https://YouTube.com/TwinCam

road_rover_autocar_render.thumb.jpg.0244e3f775875f07cd85e2f340c3835e.jpg

Edited by Twin-Cam
Following some digging, I have confirmed that Ford did not buy the Rover name in 2000, but exercised their right to buy it from BMW after MG Rover went under, (The Times, 2006).
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Kiltox said:

I wonder how much they could’ve sold them for and still made a profit - the £3999 fire sale isn’t realistic because I’m sure it was cheaper to sell them to Motorpoint for buttons than to send them back to India 

Yeah, Motorpoint wouldn't have been making a shed load of money selling them at that price. There are lots of rumours about how much Rover were buying them for before they went bust, ranging from £800 to £3500. 

The list price for a CityRover Mk1 was £6495 I believe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Twelve (?) years later you could buy a Sandero for £5995 (believe they’re a little bit more now mind) 

Part of me thinks the brand was the problem more than the price though - it’s about as far from a Rover as you can get so why wasn’t it launched as something else from the BL stable?

What else was £6495 or thereabouts in 2003? What was it up against?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Kiltox said:

Twelve (?) years later you could buy a Sandero for £5995 (believe they’re a little bit more now mind) 

Part of me thinks the brand was the problem though - it’s about as far from a Rover as you can get so why wasn’t it launched as something else from the BL stable?

I'd guess the same reason as MG, Rover/Land Rover, and Jaguar were the only survivors from BL. The other marques were culled because their reputations got so bad over the years.

The price MG Rover was charging was a bit ludicrous considering the quality. If the price was a bit lower, I think there would've been less complaints.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Twin-Cam said:

......MG Rover refused to lend a CityRover to Top Gear magazine to test, leading to one of the most iconic moments in Top Gear history, with James May going undercover to test drive a CityRover at a Rover dealer. Not only did this debacle make the CityRover something of a laughing stock, but the car itself was never going to set the world alight with its cheap interior and underwhelming characteristics, even if it was very practical and rather quick.

Let's see that again

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Tadhg Tiogar said:

Something I thought I'd add - lots of people have claimed this is faked because they reckon James May would've been recognised by the Rover dealer. But this has been busted by Top Gear script editor Richard Porter, who said that this was only James' third series on the show, and it hadn't become so popular yet. So most of the British public wouldn't have recognised him in this era.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Kiltox said:

What else was £6495 or thereabouts in 2003? What was it up against?

Have had a wee squint, few things I can see similar on list price;

Fiat Panda 1.1  Active (Wasn't introduced until 53 plate) - £6152

Seat Arosa 1.0 S - £5870

Skoda Fabia 1.2 Classic - £6870

Hyundai Getz 1.1 GSI - £6870

All much better cars. In addition, Citroen were having a fire sale on the last of the Saxo's around that time, you wouldn't have been a kick in the arse off a 1.4 Saxo Furio for £6.5k, although not reflected in list prices of the time. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think they needed a sub brand like Renault / Dacia to start with- there’s a few from the back catalogue to choose (? Although did BMW retain those) Although all that costs extra money, and there wasn’t any left down the back of the sofa for anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember getting Auto Express on a religious basis during that doom time for MGR and really wanting them to somehow get through it. Dunno why, I was only 13/14 at the time! I remember the facelift cars being released, and the Streetwise. I even had a neighbour with a brand new blue Streetwise, and he liked* it so much he put it up for sale almost right away. 

Sad it went the way it did but ultimately I don't think they would have lasted either way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, HMC said:

I think they needed a sub brand like Renault / Dacia to start with- there’s a few from the back catalogue to choose (? Although did BMW retain those) Although all that costs extra money, and there wasn’t any left down the back of the sofa for anything.

I think MG Rover had control of the Austin and Morris names, as SAIC definitely control them now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 'they should have badged it as something else' argument is quite possibly the biggest point of discussion about the CR... and it's a point where my own views are that they were right to put a Rover badge on it.

Why? Well, for starters, the name Cityrover is pretty clever. They invented the Land Rover, after all! You'll also note that the word 'Rover' is not present on the car at all whatsoever. Yes, there are Viking badges, but they are the logo only. ...and how many people refer to it as the 'Rover Cityrover'? No one. The car may have flopped, but the branding didn't.

Yes, overpriced. Yes, poor quality interior fixtures and fittings. But; it was well screwed together. They looked good with an excellent quality paint finish. They have bags of room inside, and there's that class-leading performance! ?

I'm fond of mine. I like it for what it is as much as what it isn't. I also love how people even now get so wound up by its mere existence.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What I find amusing is the tweaks Rover DID make did not improve the car in my opinion. The suspension was lower and firmer, and the ride is not great. They also quickened up the steering, and I've no idea why, as I consider it quite twitchy.

As Austin-Rover says, interior space is impressive, as is performance. The paint is also excellent. The seats are crap though, and the more I change gear in mine, the worse it seems to get.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, Twin-Cam said:

Something I thought I'd add - lots of people have claimed this is faked because they reckon James May would've been recognised by the Rover dealer. But this has been busted by Top Gear script editor Richard Porter, who said that this was only James' third series on the show, and it hadn't become so popular yet. So most of the British public wouldn't have recognised him in this era.

Wait...er....wut? Something on Top Gear wasn't faked?

Does not compute.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I sort of think what Richard Porter said should be taken with a silo of salt. However you have to remember as well that Top Gear at the time, James May was a replacement for some annoying guy they had on there and it was in a weird halfway house between the old Top Gear and what we've come to know. And around this time they apparently had Lotus spend £100,000 on a Lada. So maybe there is some truth to that. But Porter has also recounted the time he wrote off an Audi TT on a roundabout on the outskirts of Birmingham. I use that roundabout daily, I have no idea what he was doing to write anything off on that roundabout but I digress.

As for the CityRover, I have vague recollections at the time that this wasn't a Metro/100 replacement. Rover didn't say it was. But the Metro/100 had been discontinued due to a piss poor NCAP rating and had nothing to replace it with. So in essence the CityRover was the replacement for the Metro, but was never marketed as such. So one could argue that if Rover had marketed this as a Metro replacement then it may have sold better. I also think if Rover approached Tata on the basis of a technical partnership the car would've been received better. Things are different now because of the inevitability of the situation and that Tata own JLR (and in fairness have done well with them), but at the time I don't think anyone liked the idea of paying good money for something produced in India.

I think though that Rover could've produced gold plated cars for £200 OTR prices at the time and it wouldn't have been enough for the British public. I was a teenager at the time, and had hoped to go to MG Rover on an apprenticeship to do car design but I decided to go and do computer stuff instead. But I remember everyone being negative about the company. Rover's were crap, they weren't reliable, they were poorly made and expensive. That's what you would hear really at the time, at least around me. Then I remember after a year of the computer stuff, I went to a careers fair at the college I was at and MG Rover were there. And I thought screw it I'm going to apply for it. The very next day they went bust. I had half the form filled out too. Oh well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A mate of mine worked for Rover at a dealers, he reckoned the 200 wasn’t a bad car at all but the 800, City Rover etc were forever coming back with problems, namely the clutch on the City Rover wasn’t quite up to the job. The funniest story he had was when Rover removed the sound deadening and made it an option called ‘The Acousikit’. I think round this time as well they were fitting those CD players in them that looked like they come out of a cracker. Even by this time though you still got your die hard Rover buyers that were paying through the nose for that Monogram bollocks. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, sgtberbatov said:

I sort of think what Richard Porter said should be taken with a silo of salt. However you have to remember as well that Top Gear at the time, James May was a replacement for some annoying guy they had on there and it was in a weird halfway house between the old Top Gear and what we've come to know. And around this time they apparently had Lotus spend £100,000 on a Lada. So maybe there is some truth to that. But Porter has also recounted the time he wrote off an Audi TT on a roundabout on the outskirts of Birmingham. I use that roundabout daily, I have no idea what he was doing to write anything off on that roundabout but I digress.

As for the CityRover, I have vague recollections at the time that this wasn't a Metro/100 replacement. Rover didn't say it was. But the Metro/100 had been discontinued due to a piss poor NCAP rating and had nothing to replace it with. So in essence the CityRover was the replacement for the Metro, but was never marketed as such. So one could argue that if Rover had marketed this as a Metro replacement then it may have sold better. I also think if Rover approached Tata on the basis of a technical partnership the car would've been received better. Things are different now because of the inevitability of the situation and that Tata own JLR (and in fairness have done well with them), but at the time I don't think anyone liked the idea of paying good money for something produced in India.

I think though that Rover could've produced gold plated cars for £200 OTR prices at the time and it wouldn't have been enough for the British public. I was a teenager at the time, and had hoped to go to MG Rover on an apprenticeship to do car design but I decided to go and do computer stuff instead. But I remember everyone being negative about the company. Rover's were crap, they weren't reliable, they were poorly made and expensive. That's what you would hear really at the time, at least around me. Then I remember after a year of the computer stuff, I went to a careers fair at the college I was at and MG Rover were there. And I thought screw it I'm going to apply for it. The very next day they went bust. I had half the form filled out too. Oh well.

The whole Metro replacement story is so muddied by the BMW saga.  Originally, the 211 was introduced (1998) as a stop gap before the new Mini would be launched in the year 2000. Of course, that never happened. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, sgtberbatov said:

I sort of think what Richard Porter said should be taken with a silo of salt. However you have to remember as well that Top Gear at the time, James May was a replacement for some annoying guy they had on there and it was in a weird halfway house between the old Top Gear and what we've come to know. And around this time they apparently had Lotus spend £100,000 on a Lada. So maybe there is some truth to that. But Porter has also recounted the time he wrote off an Audi TT on a roundabout on the outskirts of Birmingham. I use that roundabout daily, I have no idea what he was doing to write anything off on that roundabout but I digress.

As for the CityRover, I have vague recollections at the time that this wasn't a Metro/100 replacement. Rover didn't say it was. But the Metro/100 had been discontinued due to a piss poor NCAP rating and had nothing to replace it with. So in essence the CityRover was the replacement for the Metro, but was never marketed as such. So one could argue that if Rover had marketed this as a Metro replacement then it may have sold better. I also think if Rover approached Tata on the basis of a technical partnership the car would've been received better. Things are different now because of the inevitability of the situation and that Tata own JLR (and in fairness have done well with them), but at the time I don't think anyone liked the idea of paying good money for something produced in India.

I think though that Rover could've produced gold plated cars for £200 OTR prices at the time and it wouldn't have been enough for the British public. I was a teenager at the time, and had hoped to go to MG Rover on an apprenticeship to do car design but I decided to go and do computer stuff instead. But I remember everyone being negative about the company. Rover's were crap, they weren't reliable, they were poorly made and expensive. That's what you would hear really at the time, at least around me. Then I remember after a year of the computer stuff, I went to a careers fair at the college I was at and MG Rover were there. And I thought screw it I'm going to apply for it. The very next day they went bust. I had half the form filled out too. Oh well.

And I'll agree that anything he says should be taken with a silo of salt, but in the interview where he talked about it, he was talking about what was faked and what wasn't, and said the CityRover bit was one of the few bits that was real that people won't believe was.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, Austin-Rover said:

The 'they should have badged it as something else' argument is quite possibly the biggest point of discussion about the CR... and it's a point where my own views are that they were right to put a Rover badge on it.

Why? Well, for starters, the name Cityrover is pretty clever. They invented the Land Rover, after all! You'll also note that the word 'Rover' is not present on the car at all whatsoever. Yes, there are Viking badges, but they are the logo only. ...and how many people refer to it as the 'Rover Cityrover'? No one. The car may have flopped, but the branding didn't.

Yes, overpriced. Yes, poor quality interior fixtures and fittings. But; it was well screwed together. They looked good with an excellent quality paint finish. They have bags of room inside, and there's that class-leading performance! ?

I'm fond of mine. I like it for what it is as much as what it isn't. I also love how people even now get so wound up by its mere existence.

 

Absolutely. As I said in my video, the name was genius.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Twin-Cam said:

The whole Metro replacement story is so muddied by the BMW saga.  Originally, the 211 was introduced (1998) as a stop gap before the new Mini would be launched in the year 2000. Of course, that never happened. 

Absolutely. I've got  a Rover 25/MG ZR (the previous owner threw everything he could at making his 25 be a ZR. Including not telling the DVLA about the 1.6 engine he stuck in it replacing the 1.4 it should've) and it's plenty spacious enough although the suspension is quite firm. Don't know really if that's indicative of the Rover 25 or the previous owner did some funky stuff with the suspension. But looking at it now out my window, I can see why they would've made the 211 a metro replacement.

And as you said with the BMW saga muddying the waters, they took the designs for a replacement for the Rover 25/45 with them along with the MINI and created the 1 Series. It's hard to see, and for them to be honest, what BMW actually wanted with Rover. But it's fair to say BMW didn't do half as much damage to MG Rover as the Pheonix Four did to it. Bastards.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, sgtberbatov said:

It's hard to see, and for them to be honest, what BMW actually wanted with Rover. But it's fair to say BMW didn't do half as much damage to MG Rover as the Pheonix Four did to it. Bastards.

The MINI brand and factory? That is pretty much all they got it of it. It was a very strange deal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, Craig the Princess said:

The MINI brand and factory? That is pretty much all they got it of it. It was a very strange deal.

They spent a lot of money in just getting the brand and a factory though. According to this NYT article they spent billions buying Rover and the same again investing in it. Just seems very very odd.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, sgtberbatov said:

They spent a lot of money in just getting the brand and a factory though. According to this NYT article they spent billions buying Rover and the same again investing in it. Just seems very very odd.

Was Rover a bit of a cash cow.  All the engineers for the Bini paid for by rover 100s 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, sgtberbatov said:

They spent a lot of money in just getting the brand and a factory though. According to this NYT article they spent billions buying Rover and the same again investing in it. Just seems very very odd.

If you were looking at it in 2000, it would look like a total waste. But with hindsight in 2020, the money made off the MINI brand, some 4x4 technology from Land Rover, and the embryo that became the 1-Series might have made it worth it in the end.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By plasticvandan
      Well after being on this forum for many years,and being without a car for five years,today I very unexpectedly bought a car.I had been rhinking ahead to my future plans with my Mrs and also commuting to work on a bike in winter is no fun so had been half looking for a car,then this popped up ten miles away,a 1999 Rover 416si with 35k on the clock.it had one rusty wing which I'm going to hope to replace,other than that it's very good,one previous owner,no service history sadly so I'll be giving it a full service,but I tend to do that anyway.Interior lights don't work and I need the code for the radio,other than that there ain't much wrong with it. I know very little about them but it's definitely very me,and in forum colours too!
      If anyone has any advice in things I should do or check if love to hear,I'm thinking a coolant Change would be sensible,and thinking ahead cambelt as well.




    • By Insideimsmiling
      As a sort of Jay Leno on minimum wage and an admitted car addict what should be my next bargain buy? I have a history littered with old mainly British cars and the oil stains on the drive to prove it, however with the days of cheap Triumph and Morris motors over where do I go to get my fix? The time when an Allegro or Vanden Plas could be picked up in the local classified section is long gone and people have now accepted Metros as collectable. Hell I used to be a weirdo for seeing a BRM Rover as desirable and not just an old motor with a tacky interior and a hooker's lipstick. Now I have always thought that the Streetwise was an idea ahead of it's time and I have one as a daily driver, with an MG TF covering the sports car need an old Jag for that pub landlord look, but to get my fix do l go for a City Rover or is that a step too far? I want something from the Firm even if it is an Indian take away and these are yet to go up as modern classic's, so I am thinking a high spec in black with some tasteful alloys.Will the coming Pride of Longbridge include a smattering of CityRovers or are they a step too far and destined to virtual extinction like the Austin Ambassador?
    • By CaMIRO
      Hadn't seen this in a few years, always seems like I'm watching it for the first time. Thought someone else might appreciate seeing it again.
       
      http://www.veoh.com/list/c/MGROVER
       
×
×
  • Create New...