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Rover Recalls MGf

The London Guardian reported that MG Rover has been forced to recall the entire year's output of its MGf model, Britain's best-selling sportscar, due to safety concerns. Letters were sent out yesterday to owners calling on them to take their vehicles to local dealerships for remedial work to be carried out free of charge.

Although minor in nature, the problem is an embarrassment to a company which has been struggling to achieve profitability since it was bought from BMW 18 months ago.

Recalls have become relatively common in the car industry, with Ford severely rocked recently after it was forced to recall thousands of its Explorer vehicles because of faults found in their Firestone tyres.

The MGf problem centres on the electronically controlled pre-tensioners in the seat belt. The manufacturer said it could be checked in less than an hour.

"I think it is important that MG shows that no matter how small the problem that we take the safety of our customers very seriously," said a spokesman. He said faults on the seat belt had come to light in about six cars prior to the recall.

Over 7,000 MGfs have been sold in Britain and 3,000 sold abroad between September 2000 and the corresponding month this year. Since production started in 1995, over 70,000 of the £15,000-£21,000 sports cars have been sold, and analysts said they were confident future sales would not be hit.

MG Rover said two weeks ago it was still on course to break even next year and reach profitability in 2003. Kevin Howe, chief executive, said the company had increased its profits potential through a deal with Caterpillar to build a £250m global parts operation.

MG Rover sold 83,167 cars in the UK in the first 10 months, giving it a 3.87% share of what is likely to be a record market of 2.4m cars this year. It expects to sell 175,000 cars worldwide in 2001.