The former chairman of MG Rover yesterday refused to accept the company was "dead" and is still hanging on to the hope it can be saved.

John Towers repeated his cautious optimism that the car maker can be turned around and defended the actions of the Phoenix Group (PVH) over the last five years.

He said reports of his salary had been "widely exaggerated" and claimed he and his fellow directors were paid £30,000 a year when MG Rover was bought from BMW five years ago. The figure has since risen to £36,000.

He said the earnings were paid by MG Rover's owners Phoenix Venture Holdings as a result of activities that had nothing to do with Rover.

Mr Towers attempted to console workers facing redundancy about the state of the firm's pension fund.

He said the company had made efforts to narrow the pensions deficit and despite the shortfall increasing, it would be possible for workers to have their pensions in the future.

Mr Towers said up to 80 workers in the company's IT department had been left unable to claim unemployment benefits as a result of the crisis. He said this was due to a a legal loophole with their redundancy notices showing they were still contracted with PVH rather than Rover.

"It is a completely unacceptable position that we have to get sorted out," he said.

Mr Towers claimed the company had been 20 minutes away from securing the rescue package with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and was left shocked when the deal crumbled.

But yesterday he maintained a belief that Rover could still be rescued - on the same day administrators were called in to eight European subsidiaries of the MG Rover Group.

He said: "I would remind you that there is a company out there in China that has invested masses of money in a process that could still come good. It's not dead, we know it's not dead.

"Any deal would need careful handling but it would be the best possible outcome that could occur and would involve significant numbers of cars being made."

His comments came despite SAIC's insistence it did not want to buy the firm.

The Chinese car maker said it may be interested in buying some of its assets, but was waiting for administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to reveal exactly what would be sold off.

Mr Towers, speaking on Radio WM, claimed SAIC was particularly eager to continue the Austin car range.

" The Chinese have expressed an interest in the Austin brand and the heritage of Austin is a world issue.

"My sincere hope is that we can get to the centenary celebrations in June with something in place out of this process so we can enjoy the celebration," he said.

Analysts have said the most likely course of action is that the firm is broken up.

PwC said that it will release in-depth financial information in the next few days.