People Who Bought Rovers Knew Nothing About Rovers

Rover is a bit of an odd duck here in America. When you say "Rover" most people go "oh right, Land Rover!" But that's not quite right. They were essentially made by the same British consortium for awhile, and they used some of the same engines, but that's about it. Oh, and Rovers were a bit crap.

Over in England, they sort of have the same reputation as Buick, if Buick's engineering never made it past 1992 and it was widely regarded as a national embarrassment. Rovers were plagued by poor build quality, poor reliability, poor engineering, and, perhaps worst of all for a British car, poor driving dynamics. And many old people bought them.


So when I first saw this commercial, I was very puzzled indeed. It's from Germany (ed.: actually, it's from the UK, but ran in German) from 1988, which means it would have the preceding geographic signifier of "West" in front of it at the time. That's no excuse, though, for the confusing, esoteric nature of the conversation which seems befitting of a Werner Herzog film:

You've got a lot of people puzzled.

Oh, ja? Why?

This [Rover], when you could have had...

He doesn't really say what he could have had, but let's just assume he could have had a BMW, a Mercedes, a Volvo, and there were some very nice European Fords back then if I recall correctly. But no. He chose a Rover. Surely this is the setup for an intriguing plot device.

I just like the way it's put together.

What, badly? By communists from the Midlands too busy waging war against Margaret Thatcher to actually build a motor vehicle?

I see what you mean.

The man's friend replies, as he stares across a vast acreage of bland, boring, black plastic. Maybe it's a German thing.





In England, they call it "Fastback."

Perfect, wonderful non-answer. But then again, maybe he doesn't know. "Is it fast?" "In England, they call it 'Fastback,' so maybe? I really have no idea. I'm the kind of person that buys a Rover. Do you expect me to have any clue?"

When do you have to be at the Staatsgalerie?

We're doing fine.

That's the confidence of a man who knows that he's budgeted in ample time for a few requisite breakdowns.

Fascinating building, isn't it?

It is.

That's right, they got so bored of the car, they started randomly looking at buildings at the window. In the car's own commercial. The creators of this ad were given one minute, just one minute, to sell a Rover. And they ended up talking about a building.

If I'm being honest, the Rover SD1 wasn't a terrible car. But that's not the reputation the company has. And that's certainly not the impression that this ad gave. Maybe the marketing people knew nothing about Rovers.

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