Don't hold your breath waiting for Rover Group passenger cars to follow the Mini brand into the US market, BMW AG's head of research and development says.
Wolfgang Ziebart, BMW board member for research, development and purchasing, said that other Rover passenger cars could still arrive after the Mini, but not anytime soon - even after the cars now in the development stage are introduced.
'Currently, there is no intention to do that,' he said, following a speech at the Automotive News World Congress.
BMW confirmed earlier this month that the all-new Mini will reach the US market next year. It was widely assumed that as Rover brand and MG added new models that conform to US safety and emissions rules, the rest of the lineup would follow.
Rover passenger cars left the US market when the Sterling brand folded in 1991.
Ziebart, who turns 50 this week, also told the congress that BMW learned 'some hard lessons' from its acquisition of Rover Group six years ago. Then Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder took a hands-off approach to Rover. BMW discarded that approach last year - along with Pischetsrieder, who was ousted.
In recent months, BMW has more actively taken over or merged every Rover activity.
Here is Ziebart's advice to would-be merger and acquisition partners:
The combined enterprise must add more value to the market than the two components did separately. BMW and Rover are a good fit in that they do not overlap - BMW offers high-end, rear-wheel-drive cars, and Rover offers mass-produced, front-drive cars, he said. But 'We learned this kind of macrofit is not enough,' Ziebart said. 'There needed to be more specifics on what and where synergies are to be expected.' Another example: It is hard to see what customer benefit the DaimlerChrysler merger offers, especially since the partners have opted to keep the two divisions separate, Ziebart said in a follow-up interview.
It takes time to get cost savings from sharing components. 'We overestimated synergies, at least short-term synergies, and we underestimated the increased complexities of the business,' Ziebart said.
'Except for some standardized parts, screws and bolts, there are hardly any short-term (purchasing savings). A complete renewal of the product program is necessary, and that takes seven to eight years.'
There must be a single vision, a single business culture. 'If you want to fully exploit the synergies, then one culture has to vanish,' he said. 'The original idea was, let Rover be Rover, and BMW be BMW. But Rover was not strong enough to weather the storm. ... At first, we blamed cross-cultural differences ... but the key problem is not cultural differences. It is the vision, the main driving force that drives the organizations,' Ziebart said.
'At BMW that vision is product and technology. Everybody's thinking every day about building The Greatest Car in the World,' he said. 'As a mass-producer, Rover is more process and cost-oriented.'
In a later interview, Ziebart said that as far as Rover Group brands are concerned, BMW for now will concentrate its US efforts on Land Rover and Mini.
'The effort to bring in a new brand in such a huge (US) market is considerable ... In the US, our chances for growth are very good in the Land Rover business. When (after) we do this, we will consider other brands,' he said.