Land Rover winner could also capture U.S. launch of Mini

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Contenders for Land Rover North America's $30 million creative account also could drive away with the new U.S. Mini small car account.

That's the word from Tom Purves, chairman-CEO of Rover's U.S. parent, BMW U.S. Holding Corp. He said the Land Rover review gives the car marketer the chance to see the agencies' talents.

Land Rover last week trimmed its semifinalist roster from five to three agencies. The trio is Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami; GSD&M, Austin, Texas; and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York. Incumbent Grace & Rothschild, New York, isn't participating.

Mr. Purves said Rover's current shops overseas could get a crack at the U.S. work. M&C Saatchi, London, handles Rover in the U.K., and WCRS, London, is doing the pan-European launch of new models this year. M&C Saatchi's New York office was among the original nine shops vying for Land Rover's U.S. account, but didn't make the first cut.


Separately, recent news reports in Europe say Bayerische Motoren Werke in Munich has been approached by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Germany's Volkswagen AG as suitors, wanting to buy all or part of BMW and money-losing Rover. An executive close to BMW told Advertising Age the carmaker would sell Rover if the European Commission decides the U.K. government's plan to give Rover a $242 million aid package for its Birmingham plant is an illegal, antitrust action. Rover has lost money since BMW bought it in 1994 for $1.3 billion.

Mr. Purves indicated the upcoming EC vote was a formality since it has OK'd similar packages to other carmakers, such as Jaguar. He said there are no plans to sell BMW or Rover. "There's absolutely no truth to any rumor that we are for sale."

DUE IN 2001

The new version of the Mini is due on U.S. shores in fall 2001. The current Mini is as long as Toyota Motor Sales USA's Echo entry-level small car. It hasn't been redone since manufacturing started at Rover's Birmingham, England, plant in 1959. The upcoming model would be a total redo -- bigger, more luxurious with excellent handling for driving enthusiasts, Mr. Purves said.

He declined to discuss annual sales projections for Minis in the U.S., which would give an indication of the size of the ad account. Some 14,000 units were sold globally last year, with Japan the largest market, he added.

Mr. Purves said the car will be sold only in major U.S. urban markets.

BMW Group recently tapped Rich Steinberg as brand manager of Mini's U.S. brand team, from BMW Financial Services.

But he's currently working on back-shop details, such as distribution and importing, not advertising, a BMW spokesman said. Mr. Steinberg and his brand team are expected to start the formal process of an agency review in about six months.

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