BIRMINGHAM, UK - Bernd Pischetsrieder wants to get Riley back on the road and has given Rover Group just 365 days to do it.
Pischetsrieder is a long-time admirer of the classic brand, which came along with the MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey and Wolseley names when BMW bought Rover.
He announced that he wanted to reintroduce Riley at a celebration here of the centenary of the brand, which was withdrawn by British Leyland 29 years ago.
Rover design engineering director Nick Stephenson and marketing director Tom Purvis heard the news only 24 hours before Pischetsrieder told delighted guests at the event, which was staged by the 1,000-member Riley Motor Club.
A Rover executive told Automotive News Europe: 'Bernd has given us a challenge to build a full-scale prototype in 12 months, and we will rise to it. He wants it to go before the management board before the end of next year, so it looks like Riley is on the way back.'
At the height of its popularity in the 1950s, the Riley was a high-style, quality sedan with 'a good turn of speed,' said the executive. 'That's a problem for us now, because re-creating that kind of car would compete head-on with BMW products. For that reason, our new Riley will be a high-grade coupe.'
It will be based on the R40 platform which will replace the Rover 600 and Rover 800. The R40 will be revealed at the Birmingham auto show in October.
'We think this car will offer a blend of traditional English style, high performance and precision roadholding that could make it a rival for Jaguar across world markets,' said the executive.
Pischetsrieder's move to rekindle Riley came only a week before he regained the Rolls-Royce marque, beginning in 2003.
Pischetsrieder has made no secret of wanting to steer Rover toward more upmarket sales, and he won't dismiss the old brands.
Riley almost became part of BMW in the 1930s when it ran into a cash crisis.
Talks aimed at taking over the ailing firm were dropped because of the threat of war between Britain and Germany.
Instead, Riley was bought by Lord Nuffield, and the distinctive RM 1.5-liter and 2.5-liter cars became popular. Later, under British Motor Corp. ownership, Riley lost its appeal when it became part of a badge-engineering approach that offered one platform with five brand names.