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X80 delayed - MGR announces!

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MG Rover has announced a delay in the arrival of its flagship MG X80, the V8-powered sports coupe based on the Italian Qvale Mangusta. The delay, admitted at the launch of the MG TF, is in part down to the muted enthusiasm shown for the car at the Frankfurt motor show last autumn, and the emergence of more pressing and remunerative projects, not the least being the potential collaborative deal with the Chinese Brilliance company. The X80 is being restyled, though design director Peter Stevens admits that scope is limited owing to the need to retain the basic dimensions and the windscreen design of the Mangusta. But expect to see significant changes in its detail design. The X80 was originally to have gone on sale this summer, but is now likely to emerge in spring 2003. Production volumes involve no more than 2000 coupes and convertibles annually, and though important as a flagship MG, the X80's launch will not significantly alter the profitability of either MG Rover or its dealers.

There are also suggestions that the company is now anxious to develop projects that will rejuvenate Rover. Sales fell short of expectations during 2001, and the need to boost sales is pressing. Facelifts have been planned for the entire range, but it's possible that the reworks of the ageing 25 and 45 may be brought forward, in the same way that the MG TF launch has been advanced by several months. Insiders have hinted that there may be some Rover news before the summer, when the high performance V8 MG ZT saloons are launched. MG Rover boss Kevin Howe also revealed the company is 'within weeks' of announcing how it will set about producing the new medium car, which replaces the Rover 45/MG ZS. It is not clear whether this will involve Brilliance, but the new model, out late in 2003, will almost certainly be based on a cut-down Rover 75 platform.
MG Rover also has designs on a new supermini with Brilliance. A senior insider at MG Rover indicated that the Brilliance collaboration would enable the company to consider the development of a small car, the addition of which would transform the company's size and prospects. Small cars have been a traditional strength for the company, which has never replaced the Metro, once its best-selling model and significant seller in Europe.

Current plans see the company manufacturing 200,000 cars annually from three mainstream models - the 75 family, the new medium car and the MG roadster - but the addition of a supermini would add upwards of 50,000 units to its annual output. However Howe, MG Rover's boss, has still not put a timescale on the conclusion of a deal with Brilliance, but confirmed that it will be, 'very far-reaching, involving joint engineering, joint vehicle manufacture and a common component strategy.'
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Probably not a bad idea to shelve it for a while, especially as there is now so much going on. I know things have changed dramatically since the Brilliance thing took off and engineering priorities have been overhauled in the face of this-resources and skills are finite and of course must be directed at the most pressing scenarios, in this case the future mainstream models.

Anyhow, Geneva is not far away, and a lot will become very clear!
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