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End of an era: Rover 75-based Roewe says goodbye

Published 25 November 2016

Almost exactly 18 years after the Rover 75 first wowed the crowds at the British International Motor Show, the very last Chinese-built version has finally bid adieu – bringing to an end a fascinating story of hope, failure and resurrection.

Unveiled in October 1998, the 75 was BMW-owned Rover’s crucial new addition to the executive saloon market, replacing both the 600 and 800 ranges. But when BMW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder used the Rover 75’s launch to focus on Rover Group’s mounting losses, the entire future of the company was suddenly in doubt.

BMW pulled the plug in 2000, licensing the Rover marque (and selling MG) to the Phoenix Consortium, which relaunched the company as MG Rover. An estate model – the 75 Tourer – soon followed, but the cleverest development of all was the creation of a whole new range of Rover-based MGs. And in the case of the 75, this resulted in the MG ZT saloon and ZT-T estate.

MG Rover knew that in order to survive it had to collaborate, and talks with several companies took place. A failed deal with China Brilliance saw MG Rover turning to Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), with the two companies announcing in 2004 that there was to be a joint venture. This would result in SAIC owning 70% of MG Rover and the two companies producing a million cars a year in the UK and China.

Roewe Pic 2

The Intellectual Property Rights for the Rover 25, 75 and K-series engine were sold to SAIC in late 2004, only for the Chinese firm to walk away from the planned joint venture in March of the following year. A few weeks later – in April 2005 – MG Rover went into administration, which officially marked the end of the road for the Rover 75.

Resurrection

There was, however, a second coming. SAIC continued with its plans to productionise the Rover 75 in China, working alongside UK-based development consultants Ricardo. But with the assets of MG Rover – including the MG brand itself – being sold by administrators to rival Chinese car maker Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC), the latter company had the potential to build its own 75-based MG on production lines shipped over from Longbridge.

More frustration for SAIC came when BMW sold the Rover trademark to Ford (the then owner of Land Rover), effectively outlawing its use on any Chinese-built 75. The solution was to create a new car brand, with Roewe finally being decided upon. But when SAIC subsequently acquired arch rival NAC in a deal brokered by the Chinese government, the Roewe and MG marques found themselves under the same corporate umbrella.

The Roewe version of the 75 (badged as the 750) was launched in China in 2006, with the MG derivative (the MG7) appearing the following year. The Roewe featured an extended wheelbase and revised styling, with the 75’s sloping rear end being replaced by a squared-off look. The MG7, meanwhile, was available in either standard- or long-wheelbase guises. Engine choices across both ranges were based around the ex-Rover K-series and KV6 designs.

Roewe Pic 3 (MG7)-001

The MG7 remained in production through to 2013, but the Roewe 750 proved to be more long-lived – with the final car rolling off the line in October 2016, almost exactly 18 years after the Rover 75 was first unveiled. It may have endured a turbulent career, but the 75 and its various derivatives managed to defy all expectations when it came to longevity.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Are you sad to see the last Rover 75-based vehicle cease production in China – or was its demise overdue? Whatever your views, tell us below.

Comments

David Fell    on 27 March 2017

The rover 75 is a excellent car. I still own one now and will keep it as long as I can. So sad Rover went bust in the first place. Shame the Roewe 750 wasn't available in the UK because I'm sure it would have sold well.

Stuart Beveridge    on 13 May 2017

The management and designers at BMW - Rover in Longbridge shot themsewlves in the foot with the Rover 75! Instead of going it alone in Longbridge - God knows why and who signed off that FWD design - this car should have been based on the BMW 3 Series floorpan and using more of less all of its hardware and power units suitable adapted for the Rover! It would have been a worldbeater - but it was not! That was Bernd Pischetsrieders Premium gaff and the board of BMW in Munich promptly turfed him out! He was a nephew of Issigonis but that did not seen to have affected his sense of design or judgement - or did it? I am thinking of the pork butcher desgn of the ADO 15 in detail! Amazingly though Ferdinand Piech nephew of Ferd. Porsche still in spite of this disaster took him on as the CEO of Volkwagen AG in Wolfsburg! And it came as it must in such cases it doese - in a second disaster and he got turfed out again! They even sold Austin-Rover Ltd with all its factories and land to a bunch of extremely in my opinion dubious people for peanuts and took on the pension payments of the employeees in Longbridge! Who says Germans are good managers?

Edited by Stuart Beveridge on 13/05/2017 at 14:49

DeesseCinq    on 12 May 2018

I'm on my 3rd Rover 75 , a 2-litre Cdti BMW M47R- engined car. It's now becoming a sought-after classic as people realise how well screwed together it is with no squeaks or rattles even after 16 years. Mine is a Connoisseur SE auto and is amazingly equipped for a 2002 car.Fuel consumption is great , up to 48mpg on a run and 31mpg around town. In France, Germany, Holland and Spain they were and still are highly regarded vehicles with second-hand prices to match. The BMW influence is very evident in the nice tight shutlines on panels and the bass clunk of solidity on closing the doors.Reliability is another given with the BMW-engined car. As my car has only covered 66k miles I plan on keeping it for some while. May even drive it to Andalusia ! (written 12/05/2018)

   on 11 August 2018

As soon as I saw the Rover 75 I wanted to own one, sadly I couldn't afford one at the time but much later bought a used Connoisseur Se auto. It was one of the best cars I'd ever owned and regret selling it, I am now looking for another one with low miles.

Timothy C Boles    on 7 June 2020

Loved my MG ZTT CDTi had it for 12 years from new. Would have bought another with 4wd and more rear legroom ie a Roewe 750 estate!? Greatly improved the BMW CDTi engine with a remap.

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