IT is fair to say the SAIC/MG Rover story hit the press a little sooner than anticipated, thanks to some over-imaginative reporting over at The Independent, but here it is: MG Rover is once again airing its smalls in public. But this time, things are different – John Towers is actually out and about and fielding questions from a hostile media – he’s made apprearances on Central News, Sky, ITN and BBC – and each time he has said what amounts to the same thing: MG Rover and SAIC are forming a joint venture company (as yet unnamed), which the Chinese will have the majority control of, and between them, the new company will produce jointly designed cars in China and Britain.
Fundamentally it’s a great plan, and although MG Rover will not confirm the £1bn investment by the Chinese, it is not dismissing the figure either. Certainly some money has already head in our direction, but how much, we do not know for sure – it’s probably a down payment, similar to that received from Brilliance China for the preliminary work carried out at Longbridge.
One thing that is slightly worrying,
though, and that is SAIC’s version
of current events is somewhat
different to MGR’s.
But what does SAIC get for its £1bn investment? MG Rover states that it gets access to state of the art design and research facilities, and Longbridge’s expertise at new car development. This is what John Towers said loud and clear this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (after answering the same tired old questions about pensions, and correcting interviewer Caroline Quinn over her assertion that SAIC is taking over MGR) – MG Rover would give the Chinese the chance to develop cars, which would be competitive in export markets.
But hang on one second – we know that MG Rover can develop other people’s cars to the point of absolute perfection (the MG ZS180 – a case of turning a pig’s ear into a silk purse if ever there was one), but when did it build and design an entirely new volume car from scratch? Off the top of my head, that would be the Maestro/Montego – and that took place in the late Seventies. Every car since has either been co-developed with Honda or MGR has had outside help. The Rover 75 is a case in point – it is a great car in an engineering sense, but as we all know, that thoroughness is down in no small part to BMW. How much help the Germans gave is open to debate – some would say purely financial, others would say it goes much deeper than that. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
So when the British start designing new cars for the joint venture company, it will be taking the technical lead – and this is new ground for MG Rover, I suspect. I hope it works out…
One thing that is slightly worrying, though, and that is SAIC’s version of current events is somewhat different to MGR’s.
“We don’t have any timetable at the moment,” said, Xue Hao, a spokesman at state-owned Shanghai Auto, and he added: “The information provided by Rover might be their own opinion.”
Let’s hope MGR’s PR isn’t getting ahead of itself – the last thing we want is the spectre of another Brilliance China style pull-out. Mind you, John Towers himself said this morning: “We wouldn’t be talking about this deal if it wasn’t going ahead”…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.