Branson wants MG Rover to make hybrids

A little more than a month ago, Sir Richard Branson, successful British entrepreneur and founder of Virgin, suggested in an article written for The Independent that England's government invest in collapsing British automaker MG Rover so that it could become the first European hybrid-maker. According to Branson, this would have twin benefits: Competing against the Japanese and American brands and reducing UK oil consumption.Little has been heard about it since. Branson did not make it clear if he was ready to invest some of his own money in the deal and how far he was willing to go to push the idea. Was it all just a billionaire's pipe dream? Optimists will say that a deal of this magnitude would take more than a month to take off, pessimists will hit Google News and see all the bad news about Rover. Something to keep an eye on in the future because more improbable things have happened.

Here are the relevant quotes from Branson's article (which now requires registration to read):

Gordon Brown—or Oliver Letwin, if the Conservatives win—should champion a pan-European rival to the dominance of Japan and America in the hybrid car sector, based at Longbridge [Site of the Rover plant]. After all, similar intervention has already seen the European Airbus outsell its US rival Boeing—while Virgin, other airlines and our passengers all benefit from intense competition between the plane-makers.

The EU was prepared to grant billions of pounds of soft loans to Airbus to develop the A380...I want to see the Government engineer the same sort of deal for Rover as a flagship hybrid car-maker.

As an entrepreneur, I do not believe in governments rescuing lame ducks. I was against the renationalisation of Railtrack, for instance, no matter how unpopular it was as a private company. But as a nation - and as a continent - we cannot afford to throw away an asset like the Longbridge plant and its workforce.

We can also not afford to ignore the fact that we are literally running out of gas; we need to reduce consumption. Fuel savings from the sale of hundreds of thousands of Rover hybrids would help to reduce Britain’s overseas payments for oil (effectively paying for any subsidies).

::Virgin billionaire suggests hybrids to save MG Rover, ::The Independent & ::Branson Has a Better Idea for Rover: Hybrids

[by MGR]