News : August 2006

They’re here!


A container load of new SD1 parts arrives at Rimmer Bros after languishing in India for years…

AS reported previously, Rimmer Bros – the UK’s largest supplier of classic Triumph and Rover parts – recently struck a deal to buy a huge amount of genuine Rover SD1 parts from India. Well, the good news for owners of the big Seventies and Eighties Rover is that the parts have now arrived back in the UK, have been looked through…and a catalogue now issued detailing the huge parts bonanza for sale.

‘It took many months of negotiations, trips to India, arranging the logistics of shipping, warehousing, sorting through and counting, but the stock is finally ready for sale here in our warehouse in Lincoln,” said a company spokesman.

Rimmer’s new India Parts Consignment Catalogue gives information on the largest consignment of Rover SD1 parts ever to hit the market, just shipped back from India in 20 40ft containers. However, such is the volume of stock that Rimmer Bros is initially offering many of the bits at low prices before it has to put them into proper storage. The company has warned though that costs will have to rise before too long, due to the longer term cost of warehousing.

From 1985 to 1988, the Rover SD1 was produced and sold in India as the Standard 2000 by Standard Motor Products of Madras. However the car was a failure on the Indian market, and SMPI went bust. The factory, in Madras, was sealed up under guard for 15 years, complete with 600 unused Completely Knocked Down kits supplied by Austin Rover inside.

Doors galore…

Rimmer Bros first heard of the stock during the summer of 2005, and has been negotiating for most of the time since then to bring it back to Britain. All of the parts are for righthand drive models from 1982 onwards, but much of it is also applicable for earlier cars.

Among the rare gems on offer are a complete bodyshell kit – something completely unprecedented for SD1 owners – for £1756.63 including VAT, plus many previously difficult to find trim and interior items. A front wing, for example, comes for £52.88 including VAT, while rubber seals start from just £4.11. There are also complete kits available to overhaul the suspension, fuel system, brakes, steering and electrical system.

‘Of particular interest could be the bodyshell kits,” said Graham Rimmer of Rimmer Bros. ‘These are basically sub assemblies that we think could be made up into shells if there is a reference shell alongside, and the ability to accomplish it. We even have the complete rear floor assemblies including chassis rails, door shells, rear quarter assemblies, bonnets, tailgates, sills, floors, wings etc…everything you need to build your new SD1.”

Information on the parts now available can be found on the company’s website at, but the free catalogue, with glossy pictures of all the spares, can be obtained by ringing 01522 568000 or See our products reviews on page five for some additional information on what’s in the cache.

All parts were remarkably well preserved…

Geoff Upex to retire from Land Rover

LAND ROVER has recently announced that its highly regarded Design Director, Geoff Upex, will retire from the company at the end of 2006 after 23 years service.

Geoff has enjoyed a remarkable career in design for the Rover Group and, latterly, Land Rover and during that time, has overseen the MGF, MINI, Rover 75, as well as the 2001 Range Rover, new Discovery and Freelander – generally regarded to be landmark designs in the SUV sector.

He will be succeeded by Gerry McGovern, currently Director of Advanced Design, Land Rover, who will assume responsibility for all Land Rover design with immediate effect. To ensure a smooth handover, Geoff will stay with the company until the end of the year and will continue to play a key role in the launch of new products including the all-new Freelander2/LR2.

“These have been some of the best years of my life and it has been a privilege to lead the Land Rover design team through such an exciting time,” said Geoff Upex. “In particular the last six years must have been some of the most rewarding anyone in our business could hope to have. We have completely revitalised Land Rover and now have a world class model line-up. In many ways you could argue that strong product design has helped to give Land Rover the foundations for continued and future success by creating some of the world’s most acclaimed and distinctive vehicles.”

Commenting on the move, Geoff Polites, CEO of Jaguar and Land Rover, said: “It is very sad to see Geoff go and I want to thank him for his crucial role in guiding Land Rover Design to achieve an unparalleled level of success in recent years. However, in Gerry McGovern we have the ideal successor. He is another hugely talented designer with a strong reputation and enviable track record at Land Rover Design as well as outside the brand.”

Commenting on the move Gerry McGovern said; “I have really enjoyed working with Geoff (Upex) and appreciate the experience that has given me. I take over Land Rover design at an exciting time, with the brand in excellent health and still with huge potential. We face new challenges and I look forward to working with one of the most talented groups of designers in the industry.”

MINI v3.0 unveiled – again…


MINI UK has released the first official, undisguised photos of the Cooper and Cooper S v3.0, and they show that there’s nothing radical that will scare customers of the existing, highly popular car.

The pictures reveal a slightly bulkier car, which at 6cm longer than the outgoing car, allows for further pedestrian safety at the front and room for longer legs in the rear. As predicted the new car features plenty of design differences which are obvious if you go looking for them – not least the one piece radiator grille, larger lamp clusters front and rear – and if you open the bonnet you’ll now see the headlamps are bolted to thge body instead of the bonnet clamshell.

As revealed in Mike Duff’s recent drive of a pre-production prototype, the main news in the R56 is the adoption of all-new engines. The Cooper and Cooper S both have a four-cylinder 1.6-litre engine – 120bhp in standard Cooper form and 175bhp in turbocharged Cooper S guise.

Styling changes more prominent in profile shot.

Performance remains similar to before – Cooper: 126mph and 0-60mph in 9.1 seconds, Cooper S: 140mph, 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds, and 40.9mpg. Both feature a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and a six-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts will be optional.

The entry level MINI One, which follows the Coopers on sale early next year, will have a 95bhp version of the 1.4-litre engine, which is produced in collaboration with Peugeot-Citroen. All the petrol powered engines will be built Hams Hall in Birmingham, and production continues as before at MINI’s Oxford plant (nee Cowley). The new MINI Coopers will go on sale in the UK after their launch at the Paris Motor Show, and prices for the range will range between an estimated £12,000 and £16,000.

To see a gallery of images of the new car, click here.

Higher quality interior looks like more of the same to us, but that’s no bad thing, as it still looks fantastic.

SAIC’s Rover 75 finally uncovered…


IT’S here – and although it might not look new, SAIC’s new 75 is a ground-up product which has enjoyed one of the shortest and most controversial development programmes yet seen in the motor industry – and we can’t wait to see some more representative shots of this fascinating project.

SAIC’s ‘Rover 75’ has been scooped in China, and as can be seen from the photos, it sports a 103mm longer wheelbase and new frontal styling. Previously known as the SAC528 project, the new car, co-developed by Ricardo in the UK and China, will be known as the Lu-sheng (literal meaning, ‘Road-Splendor’) in its home market, and will sport the K4- and KV6-Series engines in 1.8 turbo, and 2.5-litre form.

In Europe and the rest of the world, Lu-sheng will in all likelihood become ‘Rover’, as some members of the press seem to think that it’s a done deal between SAIC and BMW for the ownership of the Rover name.

1.8T low spec

1.8T high spec

2.5 low spec

2.5 high spec


Recently spotted testing in mildly disguised form at Germany’s fabled Nurburgring, the Lu-sheng features revised frontal styling and a rejigged rear end, in order to differentiate itself from the original car, which first appeared in 1998. Opinions are mixed on the effectiveness of the new front end, but the prominent new grille is certainly eyecatching, and will probably do what it needs to do in far Eastern markets in order to attract new customers.

Whether it’s to European tastes is another matter entirely.

There are many people who consider the 75 Mk2 an act of vandalism – with many continental buyers decrying the Peter Stevens facelift for losing much of the original car’s ‘Britishness’. On those terms, what SAIC has achieved with this car is reasonably effective, and there’s no doubting it’s early days. Having said that, once it appears in Europe in 2007, we’re looking at a ‘new’ car that’s being launched with what is effectively nine-year old styling, and that’s going to hurt – no matter how timeless the original was.


What is disappointing to hear from sources in China is that the Lu-sheng will be powered by a turbocharged 1.8-litre K-Series engine, and the 2.5-litre KV6, both of which are said to be only compliant with the EuroII and EuroIII emissions regulations. Although, as we have seen in the Powertrain story, Longbridge engineers had made this happen with the original engine, many of whom are now working for Ricardo 2010, the company now working with SAIC on the new car.

According to Chinese sources, the 1.8-litre K-Series is now called the 18K4G turbocharged engine, and it is matched with the SH78Z 5-speed gearbox co-developed by SAIC company and the German ZF company. The bigger engined car is powered by what is now known as the 25K4F engine (KV6 to you and me), and is mated with a AW55-51SN type five-speed semi-automatic gearbox.

As is now well-known, the K-Series head gasket ‘issue’ which dogged the engine to its end in Longbridge in 2005 is curable – will the Chinese be able to make it happen?


Both cars come in two versions – low- and high-spec, although we suspect a snappier set of trim variations will be dreamed up. In 1.8-litre form, the high-spec version comes with electric sun roof, electric seats, electric rear mirrors as standard over the low-spec version. The V6 models will receive all the toys – DVD, Xenon lamps, bluetooth system for mobile phones, and parking radar as standard over the low-spec. It also gets visually more appealing 17-inch alloys…

The big question now is, how will it compare to NAC-MG’s new 7Z saloon and Tourer, which are still months away from announcement?



Top to bottom: Model, Length, Width, Height, Wheelbase, Engine model, Displacement, Weight, Total Weight, Max speed.


Top to bottom: Engine model, Engine type {straight 4, turbocharged; V6, NA}, Valves, Displacement, Power, Torque, Compression ratio, Bore, Stroke.

Shanghai pays BMW £11.5m for Rover name

Birmingham Post

Shanghai Automotive – one of the failed bidders for MG Rover – has bought the Rover name for £11.5m. Shanghai will announce this month it has bought the right to use the marque from BMW, which kept rights to the name after it pulled out of Rover in 2000.

BMW last night denied a sale, but The Birmingham Post understands a press conference will take place on August 22. A new badge has been designed. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) beat off competition for the name from Nanjing Automobile, the company which bought the assets of the Longbridge firm for £53m last year.

The name is likely to be used on the new Rover 25s and 75s SAIC plans to produce this year. A stretch version of the Rover 75 is also planned by SAIC, which won intellectual property rights to the cars. The Shanghai enterprise, which has worked with General Motors and Volkswagen, plans to invest pounds 900 million to launch 30 models with its own technology over five years.

An industry insider said: “Nanjing really wanted the brand, but only offered £500,000 because they didn’t think BMW would sell to someone else. Nanjing thought they should have got it because they are at Longbridge and are carrying on the tradition. It is a UK name and part of the UK motoring heritage, they never thought BMW would dare sell to anyone else.

“Nanjing thought there would be pressure from press and public to keep the Rover name here, but it never happened. SAIC wants to sell cars on the international market and must have an international brand.”

Peter Cooke, professor of automotive industry management at Nottingham Business School, said: “It would be logical for Shanghai to buy the Rover name as they have aspirations to get into Europe, although how strong the name is after all the years in the mire is another matter. Rover is a global brand and the Chinese are obsessional about brands. It is a high price, but brands are worth a lot of money and take a long time to build up. This is a brand that is available and could kick start their plans to sell internationally.”

Jaguar for sale?

Hilton Holloway, AUTOCAR

XKR made a splash at its public unveiling at the British International Motor Show last month – but is it too late?

JAGUAR’S XKR might have been one of the British motor show stars but the firm is still in trouble – and it could be sold by parent company Ford.

The American giant has just announced net losses of $254m (£135m) for the second quarter – and it has brought in a former investment banker to review all of its car brands and study the possibility of mergers with other firms.

Jaguar is the weakest link in the Premier Automotive Group chain – it lost over £400m in 2004, and last year Ford pumped £1.2bn into the brand to keep it afloat. But sales are continuing to drop and investment in future models appears to be waning too – only the saloon version of the 2008 S-type is under development, potentially denying the sales boost an estate version could provide.

Ford has declined to comment on the potential sale of Jag, but a spokesman told the BBC, “Bill Ford has said that everything is on the table. We are reviewing the business.”

Who would buy Jaguar? The smart money would be on an emerging manufacturer from the Far East – but with Chinese companies waiting to see how the rebirth of MG goes, Korean industrial giant Hyundai could be a candidate.

Read the original article, on the Autocar website.

Counterpoint: Does it have to be the end?


FOR the pessimists among us, the news that the Ford accounts are being looked at – with a view to putting Uncle Henry on a more even keel – means grim news for Jaguar. After all, it has never made money since becoming part of the Ford Empire in 1989, and with such massive losses being generated, something will have to give.

But why Jaguar? Why now? And why so close to the point that it finally looks to be set-up to turn the corner?

Okay, the X-Type and a continuing adherance to retro design has done the company no good in recent years, but the new XK and the X250 S-Type replacement show there is plenty of life in the big cat just as long as Ford keeps its calm, and doesn’t get seduced by a big cash offer from an ambitious Pacific Rim player in the automotive field.

I’m hoping that what this all means is that Ford will be told that there remains a sound business case for Jaguar if further intelligent streamlining can take place, and alliances with other companies are undertaken – and that even closer ties to Land Rover in the UK are the way forward. It would probably mean the end of Solihull (Land Rover) and the X-Type (Jaguar), but one thing that is absolutely essential for the essence of Jaguar in the future is for production to remain in the UK – some things are worth more than numbers on a balance sheet.

In his blog to accompany his story on the Autocar website, Hilton Holloway draws parallels between Rover’s plight under BMW in 1999 and the current state of play for Jaguar under Ford. I like to hope that Jaguar’s position is a damned sight stronger than Rover’s was (ignoring those all important sales for a moment), and that in this case – the Master has a lot to gain from keeping the British jewel in the crown (which Jaguar surely is); something that wasn’t so in Munich just before the turn of the Millennium.

MG: NACered?


ON July 17th, the dwindling band of loyal British car industry supporters were gathered together, begging bowls in hand, at a luxury hotel in London. What they were seeking was the charitable indulgence of China, still formally considered to be a developing country. Anticipation was running high in the slipstream of wild rumours regarding possible rescue by Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) of Britain’s comatose MG sports car company. Hosted by the president of NAC, Mr Yu Jianwei, in attendance were luminaries from the Chinese embassy and various British consultancies. Mr Jianwei was the sole speaker. The conference was entitled ‘The Rebirth of MG”, serving only to stoke expectations higher.

China races to catch-up

THIS is not just an ironic position for the British company to be in. The Chinese must also ponder how fate brought them to this idyll of western decadence to brief hungry hacks on how they planned to save British automotive pride. While the British car industry has spent a generation in stagnation the Chinese industry has been racing ahead at a breakneck speed. The Chinese vehicle market is now the second largest in the world, 3.1m cars in 2005 and up by 27 per cent on the year before. However, the Chinese car manufacturers are not driving this phenomenal growth, they are getting sucked in behind it.

Only a quarter of car sales in China originate from domestic manufacturers. The rest are produced by joint ventures with foreign multinationals, a policy forced on the incomers in order to pull local companies up to global standards by way of technology transfers. They have been able to leap frog the normal stages of development and jump straight into the latest production technology. While the west gapes at this extraordinary progress the Chinese know that speed is of the essence. Membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) means that its low labour costs can be used to exploit global free trade to its advantage, Chinese textiles being a notable example. As the Chinese economy boils over these labour costs are being bid higher while fierce competition in the market place has put the squeeze on sales margins, now just 4 per cent among car makers.

Membership of the WTO also brings with it responsibility and by the end of this year China must abolish tariffs on automotive imports. In due course foreign companies will be allowed to own their facilities outright and then the nascent Chinese automotive industry will be totally exposed to the global industry. Chinese car manufacturers have about five to ten years to become fully independent before the ground is cut away beneath them. Despite fears in the west that China can industrialise exponentially faster than the Japanese or Koreans there is no particular reason to believe that this can be done without using external resources. For companies like NAC the quickest route to a global standard capability is to buy it abroad and bring it home.

Learning to make cars

ALTHOUGH NAC claims to be China’s oldest car firm it is at heart a commercial vehicle manufacturer. The only modern mass production it has tried has been with foreign partners and the success rate has been decidedly patchy. The core of its car making is a joint venture with Fiat but this has resulted in a desultory output. The parlous state that NAC has found itself in prompted the sudden move on MG Rover, snatching it from under the very eyes of Shanghai Automotive (SAIC). In the confusion of battle NAC came away with the British factory and the MG brand, while SAIC was left with the blueprints it had previously secured.

At the July conference NAC claimed that to be buying into the passion of MG. They seem to think that the passion of MG is embodied in the machinery that made the cars, from the stamping dies to the assembly lines. This has now been ripped out of Longbridge and shifted to China. It was conducted so ruthlessly that rumours of a few production machines left behind hinted at a secret strategy to restart them. Mr Yu Jianwei was delighted to tell us that a £10m investment would create 200 people jobs at the factory, churning out 15,000 MG TF sportscars per year, but these ambitious sales targets are riddled with uncertainty.

When MG Rover had its full complement of dealers it never sold much more than 14,000 TFs so it is unlikely to beat this when it will be 12 years old on its return. One analyst suggested that it would need a price cut of 30 per cent to offset its age and wounded brand image. Another suggested sales of around 2000 annually in Europe and 5000 in the US. This finds a parallel in the mooted 8000 roadsters a year from the Project Kimber facility in Wales.

In the meantime NAC are filling the brand new factory in Nanjing with the old MG Rover kit. Since the Chinese plant is Longbridge-in-exile capacity is a similar perfectly orthodox 200-250,000 units a year. This is enough to keep the company ticking over but well short of the million figure that would guarantee independence. The core of this tragedy is that NAC seem to be under the misapprehension the spirit of MG will spring forth from the physical assets. Walk into any car factory in the world and it will be virtually indistinguishable from any other. What NAC have bought is a second-hand factory for a knock-down price from which they can start churning out vehicles of a pensionable age. What they still lack is the ability to develop the badly needed replacements since that capability resides with the human assets, the engineers.

Physical assets without a human heart

THE announcement that the main R&D will be conducted in China indicates that NAC have not fully understood what strengths MG Rover had. The few new projects MG Rover managed to show the world were remarkably competent and completed on peppercorn budgets. What brought the company down was a lack of sales that exacerbated poor economies of scale. In other words, the advantage the company had in human assets was let down by the disadvantages in physical assets. Had NAC recognised how this would dovetail with their position in the fastest growing car market in the world the resulting structure would have been akin to an international vertical joint venture. Under NAC ownership the discrete functions would have been able to operate semi-autonomously in their home bases and so exploit their inherent assets.

In all probability NAC has wasted the chance of retaining the engineers at Longbridge that were at the peak of their careers. This comes at a time when Ford, the first car company to see the potential of internationalisation, has shown confidence in the UK as the knowledge base for advanced engineering. By not exploiting this British asset NAC show that they do not understand that expertise comes from years of team based experience, it is not something that can be learnt at night school.

If July 17th press conference projected nothing else it was that there is no coherent strategy in place at NAC. They are putting into production designs of more than ten years old and pitting them against the latest offerings from the global giants. The new models will either be released within a couple years but based on the current veterans, or else they will be all-new but appear years down the line and of unpredictable quality. There is no recognition of the potential that Longbridge could play as a bridgehead into Europe or as foundation for the Chinese facility. The Oklahoma plan barely figures in the strategy and seems to have run off on its own legs. The latest news from the US is that the MG R&D department will be partly staffed by students.

There are so few precedents to this predicament that it is difficult to find guiding examples. NAC are truck manufacturers of uncertain capability attempting to enter the big league in car manufacturing. It would be like British van maker LDV purchasing Lancia of Italy, shipping all the machinery over to Birmingham and then attempting to design the new range of cars, all while proclaiming to empathise with the Lancia ‘passion”.

In the same way the MG passion is not a dreamy vision but a genuine asset embodied in the engineering teams. Apropos this point, LDV have themselves become the victim of a foreign takeover, this time by Russian giant GAZ. On this occasion GAZ recognize the value of the new British asset, seeing it as a window on the West. Instead of stripping the factory they will use it as a launching pad for further expansion.

The last faggot on the homefire

EVEN the most optimistic British MG fan is now resigned to bad news. Chances are, the brand will flicker briefly once more then gutter and die. The only real hope is that it will be revived in the future but this time by a company that understands the spirit under the metal. Yet the prognosis for China and NAC is far worse. The Chinese automotive industry needs to transform itself, not soon but right this instant, if it is to have any chance of surviving the global challengers. At NAC’s July 17th conference those who attended were handed bags containing some sketchy press information and a couple of cheap souvenirs.

As we trudged home I had the feeling we were taking the passion of MG with us.

For a fuller version of this article, log on to the Trendtracker website.

Counterpoint: not all doom and gloom?


ONE thing’s for sure – within the space of a few weeks the chances of seeing Longbridge return to life have increased enormously. Nanjing Automotive Corporation intends to turn MG into a global brand, and not only will cars be built in volume in China, but also in smaller numbers in Oklahoma – and Longbridge.

In reviewing the last year of the MG Rover story, one has to start in China. With Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) beavering away at plans to launch, late this year, its own version of the venerable Rover 75, built in China, the story looks fairly straightforward. Unfortunately for SAIC, it has yet to secure the rights to the Rover name from current owner BMW. Rover’s return to the UK remains in the balance, even though we’ll be seeing something that looks and feels like a 75 in Ssangyong dealerships in 2007/2008.

The future for the MG marque, on the other hand, is looking a lot rosier now than it did several months ago, when no information was coming out of China, and there was nothing but an outflow of container crates, full of manufacturing equipment, leaving Longbridge. Nanjing, the successful bidder for MG Rover’s assets back in July 2005, has been playing its cards very close to its corporate chest.

Pictures of an abandoned factory’s interior gave plenty of ammunition for doomsayers to talk about the closure of Longbridge. Meanwhile, no spokesperson for the company stepped forward to deny rumours of the UK factory’s imminent closure.

However, news started trickling out of Nanjing, and that soon became an outpouring. The company is all set for an international push for the MG brand, which it is repackaging as the ‘Modern Gentleman’. A new factory in China is going up at a lightning pace, and Longbridge’s former production lines are ready to go in.

The MG 7Z (formerly ZT) will be built over there – Chinese-built parts are already coming back to the UK to furnish depleted parts warehouses – in a brand-new facility, based a few miles from the centre of Nanjing city. The company has set itself a tough deadline to get full-scale production under way, as it wants new MG saloons to start rolling off the production line by Nanjing’s 60th birthday, next April.

An intriguing three-pronged attack on the world’s car markets was confirmed last week – and much to everyone’s amazement, Nanjing announced that a brand-new production facility in the United States would be a kingpin in its ambitions to make MG a global player.

A coupé version of the TF convertible will be produced in Ardmore Airpark in south-central Oklahoma City, by MG Motors North America/Europe Corp.

After almost a year’s silence from Nanjing, the company’s strategy for the historic brand unfolded sensationally, and as well as announcing the first Chinese automotive plant in the United States, seasoned (some would say tactless) car executive Duke T Hale was confirmed as the chairman and chief executive.

Although the last MGs to be sold in the USA were 1980 MGBs, there’s still a huge following for the company in the world’s largest car market, and by producing the car over there, Nanjing-MG is hoping to cash in on the double-whammy of British heritage married to domestic production, thereby covering all the bases of the US car-buying public.

With Nanjing-MG about to live the American dream with new cars coming off the line by 2008, where does that leave the Longbridge factory and the fates of the still-unemployed factory workers, hoping to find work if and when production resumes?

Although there had been little communication from the Chinese regarding Longbridge, those close to the company’s management remained confident that the factory would spring back to life.

Then, along with last week’s Oklahoma announcement came the confirmation everyone was expecting – Longbridge would once again reverberate to the sound of car production.

Nanjing president Yu Jianwei said the company will invest £10m initially at Longbridge, assembling the TF. Although an output of around 5000 MG TFs a year is no great shakes compared with Longbridge’s heyday of 200,000-plus in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s a significant development for a company that many people had written off as being deader than Julius Caesar.

Of course, that doesn’t take away the pain of the current Motor Show being bereft of two of our best-loved marques, but if Nanjing Automotive – in China, America, and Longbridge – and SAIC are as good as their word, then we’ll be seeing a Longbridge revival in 2008.

As originally published in The Independent.

LDV sold to the Russians

BBC Online

Maxus wasn’t enough to save the company…

The UK van company LDV has been sold to Russia’s Gaz for an unnamed sum. LDV – formerly Leyland DAF – was saved from collapse when bought out of administration by private equity investors less than a year ago. Until now it has been one of a handful of British motor manufacturers still in British hands, and employs about 800 workers at its Birmingham plant.

Gaz is Russia’s second largest auto firm and the seventh-largest maker of commercial vehicles worldwide. Gaz, which makes cars, trucks and buses, is controlled by Moscow-based oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.


LDV manufactures vans and minibuses. It was set up in 1993 through a management buyout from truck maker Leyland DAF, which is now defunct. After running into financial difficulties and going into administration, it was bought by group Sun Capital/Sun European Partners in December 2005. It produces more than 13,000 vehicles a year at its Washwood Heath factory in Birmingham, close to the M6 motorway.

Sun European Partners said since its acquisition, LDV had enjoyed a 100 per cent increase in the year-to-date sales of its Maxus vans, had a strong order book, and had been able to introduce a new minibus ahead of schedule. Charlie Megan, acting chief executive of LDV Group said LDV was “a well-loved and long established brand in the UK”.

“We believe that Gaz will provide the necessary backing to support its future development in the UK and internationally,” he said.

Job prospects

The Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) welcomed the news, and general secretary Tony Woodley said: “When we seem to hear nothing else but vehicle makers and manufacturers pulling out of the UK, today’s news, which bucks that trend, is welcome.”

The prospects for hundreds of jobs in Birmingham, he said, “must be good”.

Gaz said it had appointed former Ford Europe executive Martin Leach and former AT Kearney executive Steve Young to run the business. “Gaz plans to expand production at LDV’s Birmingham plant by adding new product lines and entering new markets in the EU and elsewhere,” it said in a statement.

The firm becomes the second Russian owner of a UK automotive firm. In 2004, Nikolai Smolensky, son of Russian banking magnate Alexander Smolensky, bought sports car maker TVR.

Keith Adams

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