Formerly a British car manufacturing company, the Rover Company was originally founded in 1877 as the Starley & Sutton Co. in Coventry to manufacture bicycles. The name Rover first came into prominence upon creation of the Rover Safety Bicycle in 1885. The company was renamed Rover Cycle Company in 1890 and started making Rover-brand motorcycles and cars from 1904.
As of 2011, there are no Rover cars in production, making the marque dormant. The Rover marque had been transferred to Tata Motors of India in 2008, as part of the latter’s purchase of Jaguar & Land Rover operations.
After making its presence felt in the bicycle market, Rover switched over to producing automobiles. Using their established marque it began manufacturing motorcycles and Rover cars from 1904 onwards. However, the company stopped design and production of motor cars during the World War I and II. However, immediately soon after the Second World War, Rover made it big in the car market when it successfully launched the utilitarian vehicle Land Rover in 1948. Land Rover easily outsold all other Rover cars and remained the company’s main seller for two full decades- from 1950 to 1970, easily some of the best years in the history of the company.
Even though it was involved in several mergers and acquisitions, including its absorption by Leyland Motor Corporation in 1967- the strength of the Rover marque ensured that it managed to retain its own strong identity throughout. Being the primary brand in the portfolio, the company changed its name to Rover Group in 1988; the Group was taken over by British Aerospace, which eventually sold it to BMW in 1994.
Under BMW, the Rover Group developed the Rover 75 as a retro-designed car, which was influenced by the earlier Rover P4 and P5 designs. BMW again split up the Rover Group in 2000, following which Land Rover was sold to Ford Motor Company and the rest of the car business was sold to the Phoenix Consortium.
Headed by ex-Rover chief executive John Towers, the Phoenix Consortium established the Rover car business as the MG Rover Group. The company launched the Rover 75 in 2000, followed by the City Rover in 2003. However, the MG Rover Group became insolvent soon thereafter and its assets were taken over by the Nanjing Automobile Group in 2005.
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