Rover snaps up a heavyweight

The Rover Group has achieved something of a coup with the appointment of heavyweight sportscar designer Peter Stevens as its product design director.

Stevens, who was responsible for the design of high performance and upmarket cars such as the McLaren F1, Jaguar XJR15 and Lotus M100 Elan, is to lead a new design team at the troubled car group.

The appointment has been driven by a need to revamp the look and feel of Rover cars and sharpen the company’s image.

The new strategy is to resurrect the Rover brand by being more radical with car design, introducing a sportier feel to the range. A Rover spokesman confirms that the overall branding of Rover has been discussed, but that no decision to change it has yet been made.

Stevens, an MG fanatic, will be responsible for the next generation of Rover cars, including a range of MG vehicles. He will lead a new design team based at Rover’s Longbridge plant, working primarily on a flagship supercar, tentatively called the Lola-MG UltraProduct, but will also turn his hand to other new cars.

Stevens will also work closely with Lola, the racing car-maker which is also part of Rover Group owner the Phoenix Group, to redevelop the MGF Roadster and other MG cars. He is expected to introduce new cars under different brands, such as Austin Healy and Morris. While BMW still owns the Rover brand name and licences this to The Rover Group, Phoenix has more freedom with the currently unused MG, Morris and Austin brands which it bought, along with the company, from BMW.

Stevens is to retain his own design consultancy and his role as a Royal College of Art tutor. Rover’s spokesman says Stevens will spend the bulk of his time working for Rover.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen-owned Bentley is to create approximately 900 design and interior craftsmen jobs at its factory in Crewe, despite its decision to move the manufacture of the cars to Dresden.

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