Press Report : Former MGR advisor Qu Li buys LDV’s assets

Jon Griffin, Birmingham Post, 16th October, 2009

The Chinese businesswoman named in the MG Rover Report as ex-Director Nick Stephenson’s lover has bought LDV’s assets – and looks set to move the operation to Longbridge.

Dr Qu Li

Dr.Qu Li

Dr. Qu Li’s Eco Concept Limited has been named as the buyer of the collapsed Birmingham van manufacturer, ending a marathon nine weeks of negotiations. However, the deal brings an end to more than a century of manufacturing at Washwood Heath and marks the death knell for hundreds of West Midland jobs.

The new agreement heightens fears that van production could be sacrificed to China in a “lift and shift” operation similar to the MG operation at Longbridge, now owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. SAIC are understood to form a key element of the new plans for the van-maker, with some sources suggesting main assembly will take place in China and only a limited presence in the West Midlands.

A statement said Dr. Li’s Eco Concept Limited, a special vehicle engineering company, had reached agreement to acquire the assets of LDV, clearing the path for an entirely new business. Eco Concept plans to start a new company producing and assembling low volume specialist light commercial vehicles. It is hoped vehicle trials will begin within 18 months. Around 200 staff are to be employed at the new business, which is likely to be relocated to Longbridge, currently home of SAIC-owned MG UK.

LDV collapsed in early June with debts of £75 million and the loss of more than 800 jobs following a dramatic slump in the commercial vehicle sales sector but now a former LDV Manufacturing Director, Clive Griffiths, has been appointed as Chief Executive to run the new company.

Mr. Griffiths said: “Following intensive due diligence, the Directors of Eco Concept are pleased to confirm the exchange of contracts for our purchase of the assets of LDV. Formal completion of the transaction should occur within the next four weeks. We propose to start a new business, utilising retained production facilities at a new location in the Midlands, to focus on low volume, specialist vehicle production, starting small, targeting steady growth in a niche section of the market.

Vehicle trials should start within the next 18 months with projected sales rising to initially 2,000 units per year and employing in the order of 200 staff. We will utilise our special overseas connections to help develop fuel-efficient power trains as well as securing certain low cost components.” Clive Griffiths, speaking on behalf Eco Concept Limited

“Vehicle trials should start within the next 18 months with projected sales rising to initially 2,000 units per year and employing in the order of 200 staff. We will utilise our special overseas connections to help develop fuel-efficient power trains as well as securing certain low cost components.

“Van production ceased at the Washwood Heath site 10 months ago, after which a company restructuring was attempted; but this failed and it moved into administration in June this year. The current site’s production facilities are designed for high volumes of 80,000 vehicles per year. In reviewing its size, condition and cost structure we have concluded that it would not meet our ongoing needs and therefore it is not viable to continue at this location.”

Dr. Li, Chairman of the automotive consultancy China Ventures, said: “I am very pleased that negotiations with the Administrators have reached such a successful conclusion and, furthermore, I can confirm that we have secured co-operation and ongoing support from a number of international automotive manufacturers and distributors.”

The MG Rover Inquiry’s Report revealed that Dr. Li, paid £1.7 million by the car firm for consultancy work in China with SAIC before the collapse of Longbridge in April 2005, had had an intimate relationship with ex-Phoenix Four Director Nick Stephenson. Dr. Li later said she had been “shocked and shaken” by the “inappropriate” interest the Inquiry Inspectors had taken in her sex life.

[Source: Birmingham Post]

Posted in: AROnline News, LDV
Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

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  1. Andrew McCheyne says:

    Was the consultancy work really worth £1.7 million?

  2. Chris Chapman says:

    I suppose it’s positive that SAIC want another go despite the low volumes of former MG Rover cars they are making/selling. Will be interesting to see how a Maxus van would fit on the Longbridge paintshop line… I hope the Washwood Heath buildings don’t get flattened.

  3. Simon Woodward says:

    The Maxus is a half-decent van. I would have bought one two years ago when I replaced my last van but the final decision came down to the Dealer and the offer at the end of the day. However, as a business tool the Maxus has a pretty good spec, good volume, load capacity, big side door, good engine and a decent drive.

    I find buying a car fairly easy as I tend to use my heart to purchase but buying a van to use for work is a total nightmare because there so many factors involved like will it take the weight, will it be long enough, MPG etc. so it comes down to using your head.

    I hope the Maxus goes back into production in the UK and, if it does and I can get the right deal at the time, then I will definitely consider one.

  4. Graham says:

    I will be very surprised if we see any Maxus vans rolling off the line in Longbridge. This deal has more to do with finding a path around the bureaucracy that exists in doing business in China especially for a state-owned operation like SAIC.

    I think that, in reality, what we are looking at is, at best, a continuation of LDV’s successful special vehicles business with, perhaps, some prospect of retaining the Post Office business as well.

    What we will see, then, is ready-built vans coming in from China with tail lifts etc. being fitted and PDIs completed at Longbridge. As I have said on the forum, we can expect to see the same old local politicians and union leaders doing their best to talk it up and pretend it is something more than asset stripping.

  5. Graham says:

    Andrew McCheyne :Was the consultancy work really worth £1.7 million?

    I hope she was good…

  6. Graham says:

    “Dr. Li later said she had been “shocked and shaken” by the “inappropriate” interest the Inquiry Inspectors had taken in her sex life.”

    Probably more of a shock than she ever experienced with Nick Stephenson!

  7. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    BL will never die – it just keeps getting smaller…

  8. Graham says:

    Jonathan Carling :BL will never die – it just keeps getting smaller…

    I am not sure how much smaller they can make it! The relaunch of the TF has been such a failure that production is running at just shade above 50% of the Morgan Motor Company Limited’s…

  9. Merlin Milner says:

    A great shame that a UK buyer could not be found. However, on a positive note, Modec, the Midlands electric vehicle manufacturer, seem to be going from strength to strength – with, especially, their partnership with a US van manufacturer, bringing their design and engineering expertise to an ailing US producer.

  10. Simon Woodward says:

    @Merlin Milner
    This is good to hear. I’ve seen quiet a few of these Modecs around – it’s a pretty nifty design and a concept that makes a lot of sense.

    All we need now is for Governments to make up their minds about our future energy needs quickly, such as using some of the sea that surrounds this country and produce cheap electricity. Portugal has a wave system that supplies about 30% of the country’s electricity – it was designed by British engineers and funded by the Portuguese Government because the engineers couldn’t get backing from our own!

    We all seem to be paying loads more in so called GREEN TAX but what have we got to show for it?

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