News : Enthusiasts mourn Longbridge as MG passes UK sales landmark

MGF enthusiasts lead an enthusiasts' gathering at Longbridge's Q-Gate to mark the impending demolition at the site

A group of MG Rover enthusiasts gathered last weekend at Longbridge’s Q Gate, marking the site’s closure and rumoured imminent demolition. The event took place as MG announced that it had managed to sell 10,000 cars in the UK since the beginning of 2019. It’s hit five-figures for the first time since the marque re-entered the UK market in 2011. The cars, badged as MGs, are now imported from China, with minimal engineering input from the UK following the closure of Longbridge and SMTC earlier in 2019.

The impromptu gathering held over the bittersweet weekend for MG was organised by ZS owner Dave Stokes, an Admin on the Rover Enthusiasts West Midlands Meets (REWMM) Facebook group. The gathering was planned as a show of solidarity for the few remaining staff working at Longbridge. There had been widespread rumours that the factory’s demolition was due to start this week, and the group organised one final photoshoot ‘while they could’.

MG’s sales milestone comes after years of slow growth and the company’s desire to look to the future rather than the past. Ever optimistic, Daniel Gregorious, Head of Sales and Marketing at MG, said: ‘While we celebrate this major milestone in MG’s ongoing growth in the UK, we continue to look ahead to the future. We continue to implement our Momentum and Growth mid-term plan [and], with a number of new additions to the MG range on the horizon, the marque will continue to deliver a value-for-money motoring experience without compromise.’

However, that future won’t feature Longbridge. Rumour has it that the factory won’t be razed to the ground just yet. No preparatory work will be taking place until 9 December at the earliest, and the demolition itself won’t now happen until early 2020. There was no confirmation about which buildings will be going, and what’s staying – but we understand that the iconic Round House could be receiving a stay of execution. More about that as we hear it, although it would be nice to think that the Longbridge prototypes could be housed in whatever’s left there.

Anyway, for the time being, there’s still confusion over the demolition, and whether there’s been a reprieve for Longbridge or not. Nicolas Roughol, the Manager of the Rover Club de France, said: ‘Apparently the demolition work on CAB1 and CAB2 has been postponed, [Birmingham] City Council hasn’t approved it yet. Probably middle of next year now…’ So, perhaps the gathering might turn out to have been a little premature.

Photography: Stephen Wright

MGF enthusiasts lead an enthusiasts' gathering at Longbridge's Q-Gate to mark the impending demolition at the site
MGF Register lead an enthusiasts’ gathering at Longbridge’s Q Gate to mark the impending demolition at the site

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

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.
Keith Adams

16 Comments

  1. I assume the Elephant House has listed status?

    It should have, just because it is the image we had of Longbrisge on the news throughout the 70s as we witnessed the BL road crash

  2. Sold 10,000 cars this year ? Where are they ? I have seen just one MG on the road this year, about 3 weeks ago in South Wales. Before that,I cannot remember when I last saw one

    • There is a dealer in Penrith and there a few MG crossovers around. Also the 3 isn’t uncommon in the Scottish Borders. Yet the MG6 was a complete flop and even in areas where there were dealers, I didn’t see one.
      Sad about Longbridge. I’m of an age when I can remember the factory churning out thousands of Minis and Metros every week and it supporting tens of thousands of other jobs in Birmingham, now sadly gone.

  3. This is another sign of what we feared would happen. I remember when Nanjing took over MG that there was talk of a future model being built or part assembled at Longbridge as well as the short lived re-launch of the TF LE500. Alas that will never happen now and MG’s will just be another foreign Import.

    Many current buyers don’t know / or are not interested in the British MG heritage and regard them as they do KIA, Hyundai etc.

    Having said that, I do see more MG ZS’s & 3’s around and they seem to be plugging an electric version plus a car / SUV called the HS. Great shame that MG MOTOR UK has turned out like this.

    just as well we have ARonline to console us

    • Local assembly of MGs never made economic sense, for the tiny volumes AND the type of budget cars MG were selling

      The level of local content was minuscule anyway.

      • It was a CKD kit operation, ironically similar to the factory in Seneffe that assembled Minis and Allegros and was closed by British Leyland in 1981. Had the factory produced the engines and transmissions and SAIC promoted MG aggressively, the story could have been different. I was hoping in 2011 that SAIC could give Longbridge a second life and create thousands of jobs.

        • Unfortunately, it was well short of even a CKD operation. The body shell came in complete; it just required the marriage of car to the equally complete engine, suspension and exhaust.

  4. Unlike a Nation which shall remain nameless, the Chinese are not MUGS. They picked up the IPR for MG-Rover for peanuts whilst too many clueless and brainwashed Brits were delighted to dance on the rubble graves of Longbridge. Even a socialist Government turned their backs on the thousands of “bruvvers” up at Longbridge and the many thousands more dependent on parts supply to the production lines. Just another facet of a Nation excelling at getting far too many important things…. WRONG.

    Meantime guess what. Chinese MG are offering stuff which an ever increasing number of Brits want… SUV Crossovers, small Hatches and more stuff to follow. Prior to these offerings, the MG6 was a rare sight on local roads. Now every local trip and further afield I see numbers of those MG ZS Crossovers which appear to be selling like the proverbial locally. Not my cup of tea but, obviously many UK car consumers like them. I parked my MG ZT-T next to a woman loading shopping into her MG ZS SUV in a local supermarket car park. Had a good chat. She was delighted with the car. What really surprised me was that she had been a life-long buyer of new Fords. It takes a lot to make someone turn away from loyalty to a brand. This and my other observations show the Chinese have nailed it.

    Rocket Science it aint. But, to those we entrust this Nation’s well being it clearly is beyond their comprehension. Allowing indigenous UK manufacturing to die ~ sometimes deliberately as a way of dealing with a Union problem in many cases ~ is their way to go. Go being the operative word. Worse still, using massive UK taxpayer inducements to attract so called foreign “investment” to set up plants on greenfield sites with further taxpayer inducements to remain. Did not work for Honda who have been warning for over a decade, when it suits them, not the UK, they will up sticks and leave. Those outfits in the East Midlands and North East have also sent out similar signals over the years. Still let the Fake News vendors blame “Brexit” despite Honda themselves confirming that had no part in their decision and longer term plans.

    Annoys me when I hear Westminster and UK Media Classes talk of the “UK Automotive Industry”. Clueless … It is no longer an endangered species… it is extinct. Even little Morgan is now in foreign financial control unless that recent news is of the FAKE variety.

    It’s what “we” Brits allow to happen far too often. Get far too many important things quite simply wrong and still at it and ongoing as any news report confirms time and again. Thanks to that, I will never again have the pleasure of buying an MG or Rover built in the UK thus providing good jobs and careers to my fellow Brits. As I have done several times in the past. Not just my private purchases, company car choices too.

    • Don’t forget it was nearly 50 years that the Japanese were beginning to show how rotten the British motor industry was, from it’s working class mafia trade unions that even the Labour party gave up on, to clueless middle management to it’s even more out of touch executives.

      When a new player could start to sell well made cars in what up to then lucrative export markets then the whole edifice with it’s many painted over cracks will come crashing down, not helped by too many people wanting to give up their cushy “I’m Alright Jack” position even when it was rapidly becoming untenable.

      Most of the time it’s people falling for short term bodges in politics rather than any long term planning that causes most problems, not helped by a media mostly run by billionaire tax dodgers who can brainwash enough people to vote against their best interests by creating a smokescreen of overplayed minor problems.

    • The reason why the Chinese have made a success of MG, when we couldn’t. Is they have access to a vast market that will buy cars a generation out of date. It is that home market which funds car development and allows them to sell MGs here.

      MG/Rover was a company making obsolete cars and without the finances or market share to fund their replacements. This wasn’t helped by the owners, who asset stripped the company and lined their own pockets.

      However the sad reality is the company died in the 80’s. BAE systems put in as little as possible and the company was increasingly reliant on Honda. How long Honda would have tolerated that one sided relationship, who knows?

      The only way for a developed country to mass produce cars, is to go up market. The Germans are the masters at this, managing to trick idiot buyers into thinking their mass produced cars are somehow special and exclusive.

      To an extent we have managed the same trick with the like of JLR. Alas the idiot British public voted for brexit and back Boris the clown. Which is a sure fire way of killing our remaining car industry.

    • What IPR? In reality MGR had very little left to offer by the time it closed down

      Yes the Chinese have produced some moderately successful MGs, but other the badge could probably have produced something similar themselves anyway.

    • My sister in law recently changed from her second Ford Focus to an MG ZS. I agree there are increasing numbers of new MG’s appearing on our roads now.

  5. I can remember when China produced goods that were cheap and nasty and often sold at market stalls as they were so bad to go into mainstream shops. Now most laptops, mobile phones and smaller electrical appliances are made in China and the quality is as good as anything from the West for a reasonable price. I’ve had a Chinese laptop that lasted 9 years with no issues and the current one is faultless. It’s no surprises as China becomes wealthier and its economy advances that they’d be making reasonably pried cars like the MG ZS that provide a decent driving experience.

  6. I think that the MG eZS (the all electric one) was a clever move by MG Motors UK. Each zero emissions car counts as two whaen assessing the average fleet emissions in early 2020. This will allow them to sell the MG HS, which has rather higher than average emissions, without getting a financial penalty from the EU.
    The icing on the cake will be when they release the MG HS PHEV, again with sub 95 g/km emissions.

    I like the sound of 4 wheel drive, 0-60 in six seconds, 40plus mpg on petrol, 37 mile all electric range, low cost electric fill up, the new true automatic ten speed gearbox developed by Ford and GM and all at an affordable price.
    https://www.chinapev.com/saic/mg/noncamouflaged-mg-ehs-50t-phev-spy-photos-is-leaked/

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