Started in 1868 as Starley & Sutton, the company first made its name in bicycles, tricycles and motorcycles. Rover made its first automobiles in the early 1900s and was known for making luxury vehicles for much of its early life.
Inspired by the World War II Jeep of the US military, Rover launched the utilitarian Land Rover four-wheel drive in 1948. Land Rover became a marque in its own right, as opposed to a model in the Rover range, in 1978.
The company was absorbed by Leyland Motors in 1967, which was then encouraged by the government into a merger with British Motor Holdings in 1968.
Due to a desire to keep Jaguar further up the company’s hierarchy of brands, some of Rover’s projects were terminated at a late stage, and the brand began its move down market.
In 1978 Austin Rover began a relationship with Honda, and all vehicles that were co-developed between the two in the 1980s were badged as Rovers.
After a period under the stewardship of British Aerospace, the Rover Group was sold to BMW. The German helped to develop the 75, but due to widening losses decided to concentrate on the revived Mini, which it was developing in-house.
For £10, BMW sold Rover and MG to the Phoenix Consortium, led by former Rover executives. Land Rover was sold off separately for £1.8 billion to Ford, who then paired the off-road car maker with Jaguar.
In 2005, Phoenix’s MG Rover Group collapsed. SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) purchased the rights to the Rover 75 platform. The Rover brand, however, proved to be elusive as Ford had first rights to name in the event of MG Rover’s collapse — a right which the blue oval exercised. Unable to use the Rover name for its revived 75, SAIC created the Roewe brand.
The Rover brand is currently owned by Land Rover, which in turn is part of Indian conglomerate Tata. No Rover vehicles are currently being retailed to the public, but the Land Rover and Range Rover brands live on.