LET'S FACE IT. Not much of Rover Group is going to survive BMW's messy exit. Alchemy Partners, the UK investment group that agreed to buy the remains of Rover, never had a chance. Neither does the latest pretender, Phoenix Group.
Market forces are doing their dirty work just now. We may as well just stand back and watch.
With Land Rover going to Ford, BMW is trying to sell the rest of Rover to a capable handler. But none have come forward. BMW can now close Rover's Longbridge plant in reasonably good conscience - having plumbed the bottom of the barrel for other solutions.
But someone had better be prepared for rage. There will be a storm of accusations if Rover dies. Still, who is there to blame?
Stephen Byers, the UK trade and industry minister who publicly doubted Alchemy and thereby undermined the deal? Forget it. Byers was right to discredit the Alchemy option. It was never going to be the solution. Anyone could see that.
Joachim Milberg and Helmut Panke, the BMW CEO and chief financial officer who appeared to take Alchemy seriously? But who else could they turn to once it was decided that Rover had to go?
Bernd Pischetsrieder, the ex-BMW boss who was fatally attracted to Rover? Pischetsrieder might in turn blame Eberhard von Kuenheim, the former supervisory board chairman who set the hands-off strategy that let five years lapse before BMW genuinely tried to fix Rover.
John Towers, the former Rover boss now negotiating to take over the company as front man for Phoenix Group? Towers already had his chance as CEO, but he can claim interference from BMW - to the point where he resigned in 1996.
George Simpson, Towers' predecessor? Simpson guided Rover into what looked to be the capable hands of BMW in 1994. How can you fault him?
Graham Day, the Canadian lawyer hired by British Aerospace to run Rover Group in 1986? True, he failed to build up a core product development capability. But Day was just trying to keep the company together while searching for a buyer.
British Aerospace, the pre-BMW owner? Sponsoring Rover was a form of public service. It never wanted to be a carmaker in the first place and got out as fast as it could.
The UK government for allowing sterling to fall out of sync with the euro? The UK should join the European monetary union. Considering the marginal productivity of its work force, which also threatens the future of Ford's Dagenham plant, Britain's leaders ought to eliminate this disadvantage. Exchange rates are a silly way to decide the life and death of an auto company. Still, a brand and company not strong enough to survive currency swings is not strong enough to survive.
The British people? They protested when General Motors and Ford emerged as bidders for Rover in 1986. Either American company could have guaranteed its future. But why shouldn't the British public expect a modern power with a proud automotive tradition to have at least one significant home-based car company?
Getting desperate? Why not blame Ferdinand Piëch? BMW couldn't fix Rover, but Volkswagen might have done so had it not been out-maneuvered by BMW in 1994. The rise of Skoda proves what VW can do with old, dilapidated brands.
In fact, the slow, writhing death of Rover began five decades ago, when Rover and other undercapitalized British motoring firms began to lose their talented managers and engineers, their global competitive edge and ultimately their brand identities. It goes back to the country's shaky post-war era when only the genius of a few robust individuals like Alec Issigonis could sustain a national industry.
Now John Towers' Phoenix Group is the apparent last hope for Rover. But it is really no hope at all. Towers reportedly has the financial backing of the Abbey National Bank - 500 million (A855 million) - enough for a minor face-lift of the Rover 75 someday.
Towers may know Rover from the inside, but no one man with a paltry line of credit can save this company.
Only a real automaker can fix Rover.
With the right plan and the right people - utilizing the special powers that a crisis state provides - it seems something could be done with Rover.
Renault, for example, with its special product flair and Nissan's manufacturing skill, might do wonders.
DaimlerChrysler could get new capacity for the A-class or a Chrysler production site in Europe and utilize Mitsubishi's plant floor know-how at Longbridge.
General Motors might find synergies with Saab.
Ford could consolidate its UK market dominance and maybe even make the new Mini part of Premier Automotive Group.
Volkswagen could load one more brand onto its multi-million unit car platforms. If, in Piëch's logic, Seat equals Alfa Romeo and Skoda equals Volvo, why couldn't Rover equal Jaguar?
But Rover equals trouble more than anything.
Indeed, the fact that no major car company is interested in Rover is the best evidence that the brand has no real future.
There will certainly be no white knights from outside the auto industry. No more amateurs need apply.