When BMW bought the Rover Group from British Aerospace in 1994, the carmaker was operating on a shoestring budget. At the time of the takeover Rover was putting the final touches to a replacement for the then eight year old Rover 800 series executive car. Rover management gave the green light to a styling proposal for a new executive saloon. Its usual looks inside and out, were a sophisticated update of classic 1950’s British Saloon car style. The new car was to be based on an existing Honda derived chassis, because of Rover’s lack of development funds. But BMW’s arrival in early 1994 meant a brand new front drive chassis could be developed for the car, now codenamed R40. Development dragged on, with the final production model not revealed until September 1998 at the Brimingham motor show. Rumored quality problems delayed the launch until 1999. Unfortunately, major management shakeout at BMW and Rover in early 1999 further undermined the 75 and sales came in well under BMW’s optimistic annual 120,000 target. By 2000, the much praised styling was not a huge hit as the tide had now turned against retro designs. Moreover, Rover’s revvy K Series engines were not well suited to this relatively weighty car.
And the plush, old world, interior and emphasis on ride quality was also of step with a market that now looked for sharper, more modern, characteristics. BMW’s exit as Rover’s owner denied the 75 a new range of BMW engines, through an estate version did arrive in 2001. The 75 stayed in production until MG Rover collapsed in 2005. After the remains of the MGR was sold off, the 75 was revived by two different Chinese carmaker as Nanjing Auto’s MG 7 and SAIC’s Rover 750.