MG Rover Group Ltd., the British manufacturer of MG and Rover cars, collapsed this week after SAIC (Shanghai Auto) backed away from a long-discussed acquisition of all or part of the company. Rover is currently under administration by PwC prior to likely breakup. Some 5,000 of 6,100 Rover workers lost their jobs.
In an article for the Independent, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, proposes a solution for both Rover and the pending energy crisis in Britain: go hybrid.
My solution is a radical one, but would help with what I see as Britain’s pending energy crisis. We should steal the green mantle from the Japanese and Americans and become the first European manufacturer of hybrid cars. [...]
...no one makes them in Europe. Meanwhile oil prices are soaring, our own North Sea reserves are running out and the evidence of global warming is overwhelming.
Gordon Brown—or Oliver Letwin, if the Conservatives win—should champion a pan-European rival to the dominance of Japan and America in the hybrid car sector, based at Longbridge [Site of the Rover plant]. After all, similar intervention has already seen the European Airbus outsell its US rival Boeing—while Virgin, other airlines and our passengers all benefit from intense competition between the plane-makers.
The EU was prepared to grant billions of pounds of soft loans to Airbus to develop the A380...I want to see the Government engineer the same sort of deal for Rover as a flagship hybrid car-maker.
We can also not afford to ignore the fact that we are literally running out of gas; we need to reduce consumption. Fuel savings from the sale of hundreds of thousands of Rover hybrids would help to reduce Britain’s overseas payments for oil (effectively paying for any subsidies).
The analogy to Airbus and Boeing isn’t quite on target—there are numerous automakers scuffling globally for marketshare, not just one global giant. But the idea of basically starting over with a new, aggressively hybrid product line is very interesting.