Rover was a British automotive marque used between 1904 and 2005. It was launched as a bicycle maker called Rover Company in 1878, before manufacturing cars in 1904. The brand used the iconic Viking longship as its logo.
Despite a state-controlled absorption by the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC) in 1967 and subsequent mergers, nationalisation, and de-mergers, the Rover marque retained its identity first as an independent subsidiary division of LMC, then through variously named groups of British Leyland through the 1970s and into the 1980s.
The Rover marque became the primary brand of the then newly renamed Rover Group in 1988 as it passed first through the hands of British Aerospace and into the ownership of BMW Group. Sharing technology with Honda and financial investment during the BMW ownership led to a revival of the marque during the 1990s in its core midsize segment.
In 2000, BMW sold the Rover and related MG car activities of the Rover Group to the Phoenix Consortium, who established the MG Rover Group at Longbridge. BMW retained ownership of the Rover marque, allowing MG Rover to use it under licence. In April 2005, Rover branded cars ceased to be produced when the MG Rover Group became insolvent.
BMW sold the Rover marque to Ford in 2006 for approximately £6 million, the latter exercising an option of first refusal to buy it dating back to its purchase of Land Rover. Ford thus reunited the original Rover Company marques, primarily for brand-protection reasons.
In March 2008, Ford reached agreement with Tata Motors of India to include the Rover marque as part of the sale of their Jaguar Land Rover operations to them, alongside related Daimler and Lanchester marques. Legally the Rover marque is the property of Land Rover under the terms of Ford’s purchase of the name in 2006.
In the middle of the decade, SAIC Motor Corporation Limited attempted to acquire MG Rover, but in 2005 was outbid by another Chinese automaker, Nanjing Automobile. SAIC did manage to obtain some MG Rover technology that was incorporated into a new line of luxury sedans under the Roewe marque.
With no Rover vehicles currently in production, the marque is considered dormant.