The Rover Company is a former British car manufacturing company founded as Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry in 1878. After developing the template for the modern bicycle with its Rover Safety Bicycle of 1885, the company moved into the automotive industry. It started building motorcycles and Rover cars, using their established marque with the iconic Viking Longship, from 1904 onwards. Land Rover vehicles were added from 1948 onwards, with all production moving to the Solihull plant after World War II.
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, and 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 then into the ownership of BMW Group. Technological know-how gained from Honda and financial investment during the BMW ownership led to a revival of the Rover 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, heralding an option of first refusal to buy it as a result of its purchase of Land Rover. Ford thus reunited the original Rover Company marques, primarily for brand-protective reasons, in preparation for divesting its Premier Automotive Group subsidiary.
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.
With no Rover vehicles currently in production, the marque is considered dormant.