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Roewe Takes on China – and VW


2007 Roewe W2 concept

2007 Roewe W2 concept

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If the badge on the bonnet of the Roewe W2 Concept looks familiar, it’s no wonder. It was liberally lifted from the old Rover brand logo. But in this case, no one is complaining about the theft of intellectual property rights – a common concern withChina. That’s because a chunk of the bankrupt British maker’s assets have been gobbled up by the Chinese. Or more, precisely, two rising companies in the PRC.

Roewe is a new brand for SAIC, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., a vast and growing conglomerate that has entered into joint ventures with both General Motors and Volkswagen. But SAIC also wants to become a true player in its own right, producing cars under its own badge, as well as a collection of foreign names it has acquired. That includes the former Ssangyong, of South Korea, and Roewe.

 

The latter isn’t a misspelling, but the close proximity to Rover that SAIC had to settle for when it acquired the rights to the bankrupt British marque’s Rover 25 and 75 models.

 

The W2 is an example of what SAIC has in mind for the brand. It’s an updated version of the old Rover 75 and “demonstrates the attributes of an upcoming family car” soon to enter production, noted Dave Lindley, the British designer who oversees Roewe styling. The goal is to let Chinese styling rise to a truly “international” level, added Lindley, while the well-contented W2 also aims to show off SAIC’s engineering capabilities.

 

In the strange-bedfellow world of Chinese industry, the various pieces of Rover may yet come back together. The bulk of the British maker was purchased by Nanjing Automobile, which is displaying both its MGF sports car and MG7 sedan – another remake of the Rover 75 – at this year’s Shanghai show.

 

“I can declare we are looking forward to cooperation with Nanjing Auto,” SAIC Chairman Hu Maoyan, told the Associated Press, during the Shanghai Motor Show preview, adding that he believes “the government would be glad to see such cooperation.” With dozens of local players carving up the Chinese market, government officials have indeed endorsed a shakeout which, in the case of Rover, could bring the brand’s assets back together.


 

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