Let Rover 'go to wall'
Apr 6 2005
By John Duckers And John Cranage
The Government should let MG Rover go to the wall instead of "pouring good money after bad", a West Midland business group has said.
The comment came as Harold Musgrove, a former chairman and chief executive of MG Rover predecessor Austin Rover, described the carmaker's situation as "very serious indeed".
According to Bob Michaelson, regional chairman of the Institute of Directors, the £100 million the Government is said to be prepared to contribute to a rescue package for the Longbridge manufacturer would be better spent on job creation and re-training the company's 6,100 employees.
"Spending £100 million in the West Midlands is a far wiser use of the money than sending £ 100 million to Shanghai to prop up what is clearly a struggling company with a bleak future," he said.
"The subject of MG Rover is naturally very emotive but as a taxpayer I want to see the best use made of our resources, not just for the next month but for the future and to support generations that are just coming into work."
Mr Michaelson was speaking as talks aimed at rescuing the floundering life-saving joint venture between MG Rover and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation continued yesterday in China after appearing to have stalled on Monday night.
He continued: "The collapse of MG Rover would be a disaster for the West Midlands, but it would be up to all the organisations and local authorities in the region to pull together to mitigate the effects and create something positive out of a negative.
"Many of us remember the day when Round Oak Steel Works closed and 2,000 people walked out for the final time.
"Now that area has been revitalised and the Merry Hill shopping centre, the Waterfront business park and associated hotels, restaurants and pubs have created more than 10,000 jobs.
"We need to rediscover that spirit and get behind the employees of MG Rover to support them and try and ensure that their transition from initial redundancy to gainful and sustainable employment is as smooth and painless as possible."
In the event that MG Rover collapsed, it would be important that fair value is realised for all the company's assets and that the Longbridge site be made available as soon as possible to facilitate both inward investment by companies moving in to the area and promote and support start-ups in the south west of Birmingham, Mr Michaelson added.
A second business organisation warned that the collapse of MG Rover would have a " profound" impact on smaller supply chain companies.
"Many of the manufacturers involved in supplying MG Rover will be pushed close to the brink if the rescue package fails to materialise," said Nick Goulding, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business.
"If firms involved in the supply chain are forced to close it will cause grave problems for the remaining car producers across the country.
"Many may be forced to look elsewhere, probably abroad, for new suppliers and the job losses that follow will have a grave impact on the region's and the UK economy."
Mr Musgrove, aged 74, who ran Austin Rover from 1980 to 1986, said he was unaware of the financial situation at MG Rover, but added: "It would be folly to think it is anything other than very serious indeed."
But he insisted the company did still have assets which others would want - the K-series engine is one of the best in the world; the ability to design and manufacture suspension units; the MG image and a Longbridge workforce who were among "the finest carmakers".
However he went on: "I am sad that it has been allowed to get into this appalling state."
Giving his support to the workforce and offering hopes that the Chinese would stay involved, he nevertheless warned: "We must not fool ourselves or anybody else. Whatever we decide to do, it must be profitable."