The Rover 75 & MG ZT

The Rover 75 was a complete departure for Rover as for the first time in decades, a new Rover could be designed without financial constraint as the British Aerospace overlords sold the company to arch rival BMW, which upset Honda and ended any further collaboration or sharing of technology between the two companies.

However BMW didn't really worry about this, they had what they wanted and set about looking at their new acquisition...

Deep in the design studio's at Gaydon was the emerging replacement for the Rover 800 and 600 series. The two cars were a similar size so replacing them both with a single new car made sense.  The car had reached clay modelling size by the time of the takeover and BMW loved what they saw.  The car was green lit and getting the process for getting the car from design and modelling into full production started within weeks.

BMW gave Rover the option of using the outgoing BMW 5 series floorpan for the new car, but Rover declined the offer and chose to develop the whole of the car themselves.  Unlike the days of old where every penny spend had to be justified, Rover found themselves in the position of being able to do whatever they felt was needed with no financial constraints and no collaborative partner to take into consideration.  Rover could design the car they wanted, how they wanted and had all the resources they could ever need.

The future was bright at last.

Delays...

Work on the car was progressing, but as BMW had expensive licensing fees to pay to Honda for most of the range (The 800 series, the 600 series and the 400 series), the new Rover needed to be completed as soon as possible.  To move things along, the up to now hands off BMW became a little more hands on with the design process.  The rear axle was to become a BMW Z-Axle part so a new product would not need to be designed and fabricated form scratch and an argument broke out about the sun roof lines.  BMW insisted on the design being flush with the curvature of the car while Rover found that a small rim was acceptable.  In the end BMW won.

How (Not) to launch a car.

Initially the car was to be launched at Frankfurt, but at the last minute, BMW decided to launch the car a few months earlier at the Birmingham NEC car show, which meant a rush to get show cars ready in time and a longer period between initial launch and getting the cars into the showroom, which would not look good to the consumer.

But that was the least of Rover's worries as it turned out ,but no one could have foreseen what was going to happen

The car was very well received at the show and as the press gathered at he press conference, they were already starting to talk up the new Rover 75.  The time of the conference came and went, the BMW executives were in discussion and the press were waiting...  And waiting...  And waiting...  Then the BMW executives announced that without funding from the British Government, the future of car production in at least one if not more factories in the midlands was in doubt.

So much for the Rover 75 launch, instead justifiably proud Rover workers were in shock and fear for their futures.

The Rover 75 initially sold slowly after the announcement, though sales did pick up.  A change on the boardroom at BMW meant that time was up for Rover and by the end of the year 2000, the Phoenix consortium had control of the new MG Rover group.

The last hurrah

With a total loss of chrome, new badges, stiffened suspension and a tighter more responsive steering rack, the MG ZT was launched alongside the Rover 75 tourer.  Both sold well and for a while the MG ZT was one of the most popular cars in its class.  It helped re-invigorate sales in the car and bought the new MG Rover group time while they designed a new car.  But this was an old car now and costs needed to be cut to maintain profits as the sales started to inevitably decline.

With a last facelift in 2004 and the V8 rear wheel drive versions introduced, the 75 was still popular, but had passed its peak in terms of sales and desirability.  The range continued up to the demise of the MG Rover group in April 2005. 

The car did live on in China for a few years though, and some were exported to a number of far east countries, though few if any of these cars made it to Europe.