Longbridge production still looking like a long shot.
SHANGHAI and Nanjing now appear to have extracted much of what they want from MG Rover and Longbridge, and are in the process of re-packaging the newly acquired know-how for their factories back in China – and that still leaves many unanswered questions about the legendary Birmingham factory… will it be used to entice Volkswagen-Audi into the UK?
Now that the Rover 25, K-Series engine and PG1 gearbox production lines have departed for China, the question about MG ZT and TF production at Longbridge is still very much outstanding. On the one hand, we have NAC’s Mr Wang Qui Jing telling us that the company is deadly serious about its plans to restart production, but on the other, there’s still the not-so-small matter of the finance to get it all moving again. Now that NAC has gone on the record stating that it needs a partner to help fund the plan, things are looking a little grim.
There is some talk that NAC may yet need fight to maintain its position regarding the ZT, and its rights to produce the car. “The Rover 75/MG ZT Intellectual Property Rights issue is still up in the air and SAIC may still go through the UK legal system to wrangle the IPR away from whoever claims ownership…”
However, NAC is serious about the company and the MG marque name – the octagon is most definitely not for sale, and Longbridge remains safe, with the factory and all the history tied up in it being considered ‘extremely important’ to the Chinese.
According to one austin-rover.co.uk correspondent: “MG is staying in China, the talk of the keeping dealer network together (in the UK at least) is hollow as they cannot expect the remaining dealers to have showrooms devoid of stock for upto 18 months. This is a smokescreen in the best P4 practice of trying to find a new partner. This strategy didn’t work for Phoenix, and won’t work this time either…”
So, with NAC struggling to get the ZT back into production without third-party funds, it looks like its hopes of a quick re-start lie with the MG TF roadster. Well, maybe not: “The TF is dead in the water as MG Rover left a hefty unpaid bill and Stacto will not restart production until they are paid in full…”
So, with the ZT and TF remaining with NAC, it looks like Great British Sports Cars (GBSC) will lease the MG licence from the Chinese, or simply go down the Austin-Healey route if it ends up producing the cars it wishes to. It will be more or less be starting from a clean sheet of paper. “The Austin-Healey projects that are being branded about are based on the ‘Viking’ project which was a cut down RWD ZT platform and front clip. This is/was little more than a paper project and NAC is using it as a carrot for prospective investors…”
Our correspondent continued: “The XPower SV Sport & Racing business looks like its going to be sold to a small German/Dutch company unknown name as yet – and as was reported back in April, Porsche was mentioned as a possible purchaser of MG – and now we are hearing that NAC-GBSC are talking to VW/Audi for engines… the Germans are playing up to the Chinese, but the current thinking is that NAC’s UK operation (whatever that may be) is looking like it will be a sub brand of SEAT in a attempt to make that business more interesting for a third party sale…”
So… Volkswagen-Audi and Nanjing at Longbridge? If it happens, remember, you heard it here first.
MG Owners Club gets Extreme
By KEITH ADAMS
Recently auctioned MG ZT 500 (not 385 as we reported), as it was at the XPower launch in Cardiff back in 2001…
THE new owners of the very special MG ZT recently sold by MG Rover’s administrators PwC, via the auction house Wyles Harvey, are the MG Owners Club – and already Roger Parker, one of the club’s senior figures, is working on getting it back into tip-top condition…
The car itself has a real air of mystery about it, mainly because it appeared in several guises during its MG Rover career – and although it wore several different coats of paint, its identity remained constant (good in a prototype) – obviously to save money in the prototype build budget. Although it has been known as the ZT 385, it is the same car that appeared in ZT XPower 500 guise at the Zed range launch at Cardiff in July 2001. Roger told us: “Yes, I can confirm very many commonalities between the car we have bought and the XPower 500, yet the VIN plate on the car at Cardiff was in a different position and whilst it read 0001, had a completely different and non standard format VIN prefix.”
The same car was the shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001 – and it shared the limelight with the MG X80, which was unveiled at the show. The ZT now sported Monogram Typhoon blue/green flip paint, and was now displayed at the ZT XPower 385…
Roger told us: “There are several parts missing such as the bonnet and front panel, but MGOC plans to bring the car back to a roadworthy specification. At this time we have not fully decided on the detailed look as there is a new style rear bumper with prominent raised surrounds inbuilt to the panel before any metal finishers are fitted. This is an all new look not seen before, but fortunately goes well with the front panel style. I favour the 385 style as seen in the Frankfurt image, although the costs of returning to the original Typhoon paint is probably too expensive, especially since the Aurora finish is full and production quality. This will also need the individual rear styled spoiler which unlike the rounded ZT 190 one, has a different style with a clearly lowered centre section similar to the style on the ZS180 hatch. I have trialed a route to achieving this with reasonable ease also!
“We shall be making the most of the car and featuring it in the Club magazine as it progresses towards full road use. It will also be a focal point for displays and shows. We have to make it work for a living and repay some of the investment into it!”
More more information about the MG Owners Club and to find details on how to join, click on, www.mgownersclub.co.uk.
September 2001, and the 500 has become a 385, and now sports a new paint job…
Chinese production, one step closer…
NANJING Automobile Corp (NAC), on the heels of the biggest overseas deal in the history of the Chinese auto industry, is expected to begin construction later this month on a factory that will allow it to carry out its revival plans for the MG Rover brand. The Nanjing Auto MG Automobile Co Ltd will hold a foundation-laying ceremony on December 28 for the plant, located in Nanjing’s Jiangning area.
The company plans to invest 2.8 billion yuan (£197m) to produce 200,000 cars, 250,000 engines and 100,000 gearboxes annually, according to people close to the project. Production is expected to begin within the next year and a half.
The first cars made there will be five series and about 20 models of MGs.
Zhang Xin, former president of Nanjing Iveco Automobile Corp, the most important and profitable subsidiary of Nanjing Automobile Corp, has been appointed general manager of the new company. The automaker has been looking for 200 engineers and other staff members since October. NAC beat Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) in the bidding to take over the carmaker, which shut down due to bankruptcy.
Nanjing Auto spent £53m in July to acquire the assembly lines, engine technology of engines and many of the models under MG Rover Group. Before SAIC was knocked out of the bidding, however, it paid £67m to acquire some manufacturing rights from MG Rover as well as for the Rover 25 and Rover 75 models.
The last ever ZT V8 found…
By KEITH ADAMS
Do you want to own a piece of MG Rover history?
THE last MG ZT V8 has finally left Longbridge, and has gone on sale if you fancy picking up a piece of MG Rover history.
Looking stunning in Pearl Black, the ZT 260 SE V8 sports the chassis number 883, and is now currently on sale at SMC in High Wycombe. The price is set at £29,995, and the car comes with a certificate of authenticity about it’s status as the last ZT V8.
According to Roger Parker of the MG Owners’ Club, there is no doubt this is the real deal: “At my last visit into Longbridge we took a good look around, and I could find no trace of 884. Chassis number 883 would appear to be the very last one…”
SMC also has the last front wheel drive MG ZT to leave Longbridge. As confirmed elsewhere, the last Rover 75 (number 355194) now resides at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon – car number 355193 is an MG ZT Diesel, and that has been retained by Nanjing, but car number 355192, a black ZT 180 Automatic, is up for sale at SMC Slough…
If you end up buying either of these cars, please let us know.
For more information, click on, www.smc-cars.com…
Buy yourself an MG ZT 385 Extreme…
By KEITH ADAMS
Ever thought a ZT 260 lacked grunt? Well, now’s your chance to pick up an Extreme model…
Ex-MG Rover development cars are finding their way onto the second hand market, as administrators keen to liquidate as many assets as possible identify potential profits from an interesting selection of cars – two such cars have found their way into the ring are the XPower ZT 385 Extreme, and a former development ZR, both offered by the auction house, Wyles Hardy.
Of particular interest is the ZT, which appeared at several motor shows during 2002 and 2003, and which ended up becoming a company development hack. The car was in the possession of MG Sport and Racing, who were in the process of developing the car for production, after the development team at MG Rover Longbridge handed it over.
It has been at S&R since late 2003, and appears to be half way through the process of being converted into ‘Mk2’ specification (no easy task when ot comes to the front bumper). Currently, it is described as a non-runner, as the oil light doesn’t go out…
Wyles Hardy is inviting tenders for the car – and it looks like an enticing proposition for MG enthusiasts everywhere.
For more information, click on www.wyleshardy.com.
Work to be done – and not all of it is cosmetic…
Austin-Healey tug-of-love continues…
By KEITH ADAMS
Will Austin Healeys be rolling out of this factory within two years? Great British Sports Cars seem to think so…
…MEANWHILE, reports in today’s AUTOCAR magazine claim that Great British Sports Cars (GBSC) and Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) are planning to re-start sports car production at Longbridge. The car – a re-born Austin Healey – based on the defunct MG XPower SV will be treated to a retro-style makeover and strong Austin-Healey 3000 styling cues.
Reported to be powered by 5-litre version of the Ford Mustang V8, and using the existing – and rather advanced – SV running gear, the ‘Austin Healey 5000’, will see the marque finally return to the car market after a 36 year absence. Autocar magazine reports that the car could be unveiled as early as next year’s British Motor show, to be held next July, at the ExCel in London’s Docklands…
The deal to build the new sports car would appear to hinge on NAC and GBSC purchasing the profit-making MG Sports and Racing – the offshoot company which was set-up to produce the XPower SV when it became clear that the X80 project was never going to be the volume model MG Rover originally envisaged.
It is also a UK business model for MG, which has been talked about by various parties since the collapse of MG Rover back in April – and would appear to be the most logical way of recouping some of the £30m development costs eaten up by the XPower SV…
According to the same report, the MG TF will be re-introduced as soon as poessible following a light re-vamp, and the introduction of new Audi-sourced engines. The TF platform still has plenty of life left in it (and the potential to be produced in hybrid form, thus stealing a march on its rivals), and at the time of its death earlier this year, it was still the strongest selling car in its sector in the UK.
The MG TF re-style may not be as far-reaching as this Peter Stevens proposal, but new looks and Audi engines will give the car a useful sales boost…
Bhaskar working towards €1bn ‘Plan B’
By KEITH ADAMS
THE man behind the ill-fated Triple-A bid for MG Rover has been working on piecing together a €1billion business plan, which could see significant production returning to Longbridge. Krish Bhaskar, who heads up the Motor Industry Reseach Unit (MIRU), which is based in France has pieced together a financial package with a heavy-hitting partner from the finance industry, and is said to have been working on an engine deal with a European partner.
With this backing, Bhaskar says he has made an approach to Nanjing Automotive Corporation (NAC), and is hoping the support of American Arabian Investment & Development Holdings, Inc (AMAR) will open doors in Longbridge and Nanjing. The investment trust, with offices in the United States, Egypt and Germany, has earmarked funds of up to €1bn to finance the project.
Professor Bhaskar said: “I have approached Nanjing Automotive with a view to exploring opportunities to redevelop sustainable car production at the Longbridge site. Nanjing and its UK partners have already stated that should car production resume at Longbridge, it will be on a significantly smaller scale than before. It makes sense to examine the feasibility of acquiring assets at Longbridge which do not form part of Nanjing’s plans for the site, and possibly the sharing of core production facilities. In the event that car production will not prove possible at Longbridge, then we would be prepared to consider an either an existing facility or a new ‘greenfield’ site in the West Midlands.”
Professor Bhaskar has won plaudits in the industry for Project Tempest, and claims reports that GBSC has picked up the rights to the Austin-Healey marque name are premature. He said: “I was amazed to read that sources close to GBSC are claiming the company has secured the rights to use the Austin-Healey brand. I obviously cannot comment on what exactly GBSC has or has not bought, but I am certain it has not the right to use the Healey brand name in any shape or form. The right to use the name on any production vehicle belongs to a third party and the Healey family who I believe are unrelated to GBSC or its financial backers.”
However, there is no word as to whether NAC has opened a dialogue with Bhaskar, although if rumours of a split between the Chinese company and its potential partners at GBSC are founded, then a new injection of finances may well be needed to bolster the Chinese coffers – and Professor Bhaskar may well yet realise his Longbridge ambitions…
Could Krish Bhaskar’s ‘spiritual successor’ to the Austin-Healey 3000 end up wearing an A-H badge, after all?
Picture of Krish Bhaskar, courtesy Autocar magazine
Owen’s for you…
By KEITH ADAMS
British Espada – and it could be yours…
THE Owen Sedanca has an interesting story behind it, and it without doubt a fascinating might-have-been in Jaguar’s history. One of the three known cars is up for sale on eBay, and if you want to get in the bidding war that is bound to ensue from its sale, then you have eight days to make a bid.
The seller, Doug Ryder, said: “As you can see from the pictures, the car is in excellent condition having covered just over 10,000 miles since the day it was built. In fact it can best be described as being in ‘museum condition” which is probably where it really belongs. Accompanying the car is a thick history file which details all the work that has ever been carried out, including some £15,000 worth of fastidious fettling and improvement. There are also many press clippings detailing the history of the car, including full-length features from magazines such as Classic & Sportscar and Jaguar Enthusiast Magazine.
“Also included is a copy of the business plan for the car and other versions, such as an Estate and a Convertible neither of which were ever made. The bodywork is in fine condition and the sumptuous leather interior is still as good as new, including the leather-covered dashboard and the luxurious suede headlining. It is also a surprisingly practical machine as the already cavernous boot can be made even larger by folding down the rear seats.
“The engine is hardly run-in with a little over 10,000 miles on the clock. The car has a current MOT valid until 29th June 2006 and is taxed until the end of 2005.”
Of course, if someone wants to buy austin-rover.co.uk a Christmas present, then we’ll not say no.
Austin-Rover.co.uk Industry Editor, MICHAEL WYNN-WILLIAMS
They’re all available on the Internet auction site, eBay, and here, where values are led by the buyers, and not the sellers, you get a fairer idea of MG Rover’s true worth on the market place…
TO declare yourself as a fan of MG Rover, you have to have a pretty thick skinned these days. If you have one it is assumed it is stuck up a hole where the sun don’t shine, and if you want one then you must be one wheel short of a unicycle. Certainly, the discounts necessary to shift the new models out of the showroom have been known about for years, and since the company’s collapse values have been perceived to be in freefall.
Even the great Professor Garel Rhys has come over all negative. While it is true that MG Rover’s new car prices have always been, shall we say, on the soft side, the room for price movement on any new car has always been limited by the dealer margin. Just because the full discount seemed to be instantly available does not mean that the cars were without value. Quite the opposite, it shows that for a relatively small price reduction, rarely more than 15 per cent, a significant number of buyers could be tempted. Alright, not in their millions but 100,000+ a year is not bad for such old products.
However, it is impossible to know what the real market value of a new car is because the values are always constrained by the manufacturing costs. The producer must recover this or else exit manufacturing altogether, so the room for negotiation is always limited by the dealer’s margin on top of that. This is not the case for the used car market where the seller must accept whatever the buyer is willing to pay. For example, Autocar tells us that any Jaguar XJ is worth about half its new value after three years and 30,000 miles.
Does this really mean that during that period over £30,000 worth of wear and tear was suffered? Of course not, it is simply the value that the market puts on the car. When it was new it was most likely purchased by a company that had the budget to buy it new, and at a price that Jaguar could not come down from. If Jaguar did, then it would be on a short road to oblivion. Once into the used market, though, all bets are off. The seller must accept the buyer’s offer if they want to get rid of the vehicle. When you sell your old car for next to nothing you do not have to exit life, although you might feel like it.
So if we want to know what the real value of MGs and Rovers is then we need to look at the used market. The first thing to note is that although wild bargains were promised after the company’s fall this has not generally come about. Yes indeed, the discounts have been very attractive but not the bottomless pit that was predicted and recently auction houses have even reported a modest recovery in values. Remember, these are cars that are not just obsolete, they are deceased.
An excellent place to get a feel for the latent popularity of MGs and Rovers is in eBay. Not only can we see the final selling price, but also the number of bids that went in. This gives us a very accurate picture of both the value and popularity of each vehicle. The table below is a snapshot of some recent eBay auctions that I have been looking at.
|eBay values at a glance|
|Rover 75 Diesel Tourer||2002||26||£6550|
|Rover 75 CDT||2002||2||£4995|
|Rover 45 TD||2004||14||£5095|
|Rover 45 1.6||2002||18||£2799|
|Rover 25 1.4||2002||6||£1900|
|MG ZT 190||2002||17||£5295|
|MG ZS 180||2002||11||£3200|
|MG ZR 105||2005||11||£6351|
The models are not given in great detail, what we are trying to get is a general feel for the value of the model. Similarly, I have not been too specific on their age, the year alone will do for now. If we look at the settlement price first we see that the prices are really quite reasonable. I am slightly surprised that the 75 diesel tourer has fetched more than the ZT of the same age, and it also looks like the ZS is barely worth more than the 45 with the smaller engine.
The ZR has no close Rover equivalent in this search, though perhaps the Streetwise shown would appeal to the same kind of customer. Overall, the surprise is that in this limited study the Rovers are worth as much, if not more, than the equivalent MGs. This goes against media wisdom and depictions of the Rover brand as tarnished beyond redemption. Instead, it would appear that Rover buyers are still out there and a loyal bunch they are too. Meanwhile, it looks like MG buyers have been tempted away by the bright lights of Ford and Vauxhall.
There are a couple of surprises amongst the Rover values. First is the Streetwise, generally lambasted as a poor used car choice despite the warm reception at its launch, yet this one is holding up reasonably well. Second is the CityRover. I could not find one for this study but I have been following them previously and I have been staggered by the prices they have reached. Surely, this is a car that is worth zero if ever there was one, yet they regularly sell for up to £3000 a go. It seems it had its fans after all.
Of course, a small knot of nostalgic MG Rover nostalists might support the prices. A look at the bid number tells us that this is not so. It is not surprising that the 75 models attract interest, it is the newest model, but the rest have their fans too. Reports claim that the 45s have been very poor sellers, but not according to this short demonstration.
The continued popularity of the 25 tells us that Rover were quite successful in attaching the brand to smaller models, again in defiance of critics who claim this was inappropriate for a luxury car maker. But here comes the real shocker: what about those TFs? Don’t those people know its winter out there?! Not only are they popular, but they are showing solid values too. According to Parkers, the Mazda MX5 might be worth up to £2000 more, but then they are still rolling of the Hiroshima production lines.
Whoever revives MG Rover should take this as a salutary lesson. Any plans about returning with a sports car are right on the money, the demand is clear. This particularly augurs well for the revival of Austin-Healey. It should also be safe to bring back the 75, this study shows they are well liked. We can see that the smaller cars continue to attract buyers even when they are this long in the tooth, so new models would be a sure fire hit. And what about the besmirched Rover brand? Not a bit of it, people like it and the new company should not be shy about bringing it back.