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’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]
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