MG goes live!
Apparently, these cars have just rolled off the production line in Nanjing…
THE first Chinese-built MG sports cars have rolled off the production line in the eastern city of Nanjing. The manufacturer, state-owned Nanjing Automobile, bought the assets of bankrupt UK car firm Rover in 2005. It plans to produce 200,000 new cars every year and hopes to sell the vehicles around the world.
But many are likely to be sold to the booming domestic market, with demand for luxury vehicles soaring amongst the country’s wealthy elite. In six short months the Chinese have built a massive new factory and installed the robots and assembly lines they bought from the bankrupt Rover, reports the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Nanjing.
And it was with music from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and against a video wall showing shots of Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace that Nanjing Auto launched its two new models. These are the MG7 saloon and the MG-TF sports car which, General Manager Zhang Xin told Reuters news agency, would be priced at between 180,000 and 400,000 yuan (£11,800-£26,250).
The cars have not changed much, right down to the Union flag, which is still displayed proudly on their bodywork. The company wants to sell the cars not just in China but around the world. But with the Chinese car market growing by 10 million new cars every year, Nanjing Auto will likely be selling most of its MGs in showrooms closer to home, our correspondent adds.
NAC-MG Press statement
Raise your heartbeat
NAC-MG celebrates the birth of China’s first international car brand
On 27 March 2007, after a period of huge anticipation, MG – China’s first international car brand – will reveal its strength to an eager public.
This day will symbolise a milestone in Chinese automobile manufacturing. NAC MG is inaugurating its state of the art production line while celebrating the launch of China’s first international car brand which inherits all the British traditions synonymous with MG.
The celebrations to mark the first car off the line have attracted leaders from the JiangSu provincial government, NanJing CCP committee and the NanJing municipal government, while British VIPs including a Member of Parliament will also attend the celebrations. Nearly 1,000 visitors will attend, including MG’s global suppliers, distributors, partners, Chinese and non-Chinese consultants and the world’s media. All have gathered together to enjoy this significant moment which will witness the first Chinese built MG roll off the production line.
The MG plant is the world’s largest single power assembly line making the world’s widest range of associated products. The Chinese built, fully automated welding and assembly line guarantees the simultaneous production of multiple models and also incorporates modern production equipment brought over from the UK. Three new Chinese built MG models will be seen for the first time at the event, witnessed by nearly one thousand guests.
The new MG models include the MG7 series and the MG TF sports car. The luxurious and elegant MG7 series will appeal to China’s middle and high-end car market sectors, while the first Chinese made sports car – the MG TF – incorporates many high technology features. A true sports car, the TF is a high performance model with outstanding handling characteristics and dynamic good looks, very much in keeping its British sports car heritage. The new MG cars demonstrate world class levels of construction, quality and technology.
The official ‘off the line’ celebration of NAC MG car production not only symbolizes the full launch of this new international Chinese brand but also marks a new age of development for the Chinese automobile industry. Chairman HaoLiang Wang says of the event:“The purpose of the MG project is to create a brand-new self-dependent Chinese brand which has the advantage of already being recognized as an internationally well respected brand. From the outset, this was an advanced project that has delivered competitive and technologically advanced products. The project is hugely different from the traditional joint ventures and the purely domestic products of the Chinese automobile industry. NAC has adopted the third development model which in essence brings a truly international brand to the market led by a Chinese enterprise. This is a true innovation. The brand’s core competence is to incorporate international standards of development, production and quality control with world class marketing and know-how.”
In recent years, the Chinese automobile industry has made great improvements and has become the third largest car manufacturing and consumer market in the world. However, compared with world’s top level automobile manufacturers, the Chinese auto industry lacks certain competitive advantages. The auto industry has become the fifth largest industry in China and huge emphasis is now being focused on how the country can further improve its competitiveness and become a major power in the world’s automotive industry.
During “the 11th Five-Year Plan” period, CCP implemented a plan to enhance creativity as one of the key strategies for developing Chinese society and industry. The key strategic decision of “going out” was a change from the established macro economic development of the country. The “third development model” of the Chinese automotive industry, adopted by NAC-MG, clearly demonstrates the proactive implementation of these two great strategies. According to NAC-MG Chairman, Mr Jian Wei Yu, to accomplish this strategic concept, MG will develop two bases; one in Nanjing and the other in Longbridge, Birmingham, UK. The UK will be the centre for R&D and also be the base the production of high-end value-adding products, while China will be the production centre and responsible for developing the domestic and overseas markets. In China, NAC MG will focus on achieving cost control and developing core competences for sustainable growth.
Since NAC’s successful acquisition of the assets of MG Rover and Powertrain in July 2005, NAC-MG has mastered MG’s core technologies within only one year and has made a range of accomplishments including the export of the first batch of parts to Europe, production of the first N4 engine as well as the first MG7 and MG TF cars. Following the beginning of the project, NAC MG took an unprecedented and innovative route, creating twelve “firsts” in China – from owning the first ‘world renowned’ car brand to being the first Chinese car company recognized by the international automotive industry. NAC MG is also the first Chinese car manufacturer to introduce European environmental standards, the first enterprise to simultaneously establish production bases domestically and overseas and the first Chinese enterprise to get world class core technologies.
The first MG model ‘off the line’ not only demonstrates the successful implementation of the MG project – renowned as the number one industrial project for NanJing city – but also symbolizes a key transformation point for the Chinese automobile industry. Through the brand strength, the assurance of quality and the use of technology and world class manufacturing techniques, MG is entering the international top league and will create the drive for Chinese automobile products to speed up their pace in the international market . NAC MG has created a true high-end international car brand led by the Chinese and will lead the way for the establishment of the truly international automotive firms.
NAC-MG needs finance on the eve of its big day
The banner covers a line exclusively revealed on this website days ago…
The Tomorrow (27th March) is the big launch for the newly energised ‘Modern Gentleman’ in China, and Nanjing Automotive is promising to make a big splash – with the unveiling of its new MG factory, and a range of cars based on the TF and ZT. The date is significant for the company as it’s the 60th anniversary of the beginning of vehicle production, and the Chinese want to celebrate in style. However, according to a report by Reuters, the company is looking for financial support for the venture – which it sees as being an important bridgehead into the European market.
Reuters stated that NAC-MG may sell as much as 50 per cent of the company to outside investors to help fund its expansion of its recently purchased ‘British’ marque. The company is expected to roll out two mid-ranged MG 7-series saloons (in two different wheelbases) and an MG TF sportscar tomorrow, priced at 180,000 yuan and 400,000 yuan (£11,800-£26,250).
However, in order to expand the MG business into a global player, NAC will need between 2bn and 3bn yuan (£130m-£195m) to increase capacity in the next few years. NAC-MG General Manager, Zhang Xin told Reuters, “We have been in talks with several potential partners, including funds, in North America and Europe and could sell as much as 50 percent”.
The company also hopes to sell 200,000 vehicles in five years’ time, he added.
Unregistered MG Rovers still available
Fancy an ’07 plate MGR? They’re still out there…
DESPITE being out of production for approaching two years, there are still a few MG Rovers out there waiting to be registered. Martin Green hit the ‘phone book and after talking to the larger dealer groups, he discovered that there are still plenty of ’07 plate bargains to be had out there – sold by dealers who will probably be ready to strike a bargain…
Below is a list of the cars still on sale – and their respective dealers, please get in touch if you know of any we’ve missed:
|The Pendragon Group|
Rover 75 1.8T
|Sky Blue||Unregistered||01642 253666|
Rover 75 1.8T
|Pearl Black||Unregistered||01642 253666|
Rover 75 1.8T Classic
Rover 45 1.6 SE
|Pearl Black||Unregistered||01274 386444|
Rover 25 1.4 GSI
|Silver||07 Plate||0845 278 0315|
Reg Vardy, Aberdeen
MG ZT-T 190
MG ZT-T 190
MG ZT 190
Rover 75 1.8T
|N/A||56 Plate||01202 715577|
|N/A||56 Plate||01305 217000|
|AE Wilcox – 01454 294213|
Rover 75 1.8T Contemporary
Rover Commerce Van
Rover 25 1.4
Rover 45 1.6 SE
MG ZT 260 V8 SE
MG TF 135
MG TF VVC
MG TF 120 Stepspeed
MG TF 135 Sunstorm
|SMC High Wycombe – 01494 520531|
Rover 75 CDT
Rover 75 CDT Tourer
MG ZT 1.8T
MG ZT 1.8T
MG ZT 260 V8
MG ZT 260 V8
MG TF 1.8
MG TF 1.8 Sunstorm
MG TF 1.8
MG ZT 190
Cars For You
If you find this stock exhausted or want something else this salesman, a very keen Rover/MG fan, will try to hunt down and find it for you: contact Peter Fryer on either 01244 680100 or 07749969682
Rob Oldaker announced as NAC-MG Product as pictures from inside the Nanjing factory emerge
Rob Oldaker adds credibility to the NAC-MG venture.
REPORTS from China have revealed that ex-MG Rover product development guru Rob Oldaker has taken a similar role within NAC-MG, strengthening the team and no doubt ensuring tha the new Chinese saloons will be of high enough quality in the chassis department to cut the mustard in European markets. This is welcome news from the NAC-MG camp as the self-imposed deadline for start of production at the NAC-MG factory in Nanjing draws ever closer, and series production has yet to start.
We reveal that the factory is not yet up to speed – and yet, already, a Rover 25/MG ZR is being built on the existing tooling brought over from Longbridge in order to assess the feasibility of of building the smaller car alongside the new MG7.
Interestingly, it has also ran a Rover 45/ZS bodyshell through the line, although it remains to be seen whether this can be brought into production as the new MG5 series…
According to a source close to the factory, the MG7 is getting closer to production, although the models currently being produced (which still amount to under 100) are being largely handbuilt. The same goes for the K-Series engines, because the Powertrain tooling has yet to be fully assembled in China.
Look closely, and you’ll see that’s a Rover 25/MG ZR being hand-built
Posters have been put up all around the factory encouraging workers to put in all the effort they can to meet this deadline – and the city of Nanjing is already groaning under the weight of advance publicity billboards, proclaiming the announcement of the Modern Gentleman.
NAC-MG is hoping to unveil the MG7 to the public at the end of the month to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the company’s formation. MG TF2 production is also slowly ramping up in Longbridge, with fully-finished cars coming off the line later this year – NAC-MG executives are hoping to cash in on the summer boom for roadster sales, and maintain this as a realistic target.
There have been no official announcements concerning the MG3 (nee ZR), although our sources have heavily hinted that it could be shown as early as May. Its introduction couldn’t come a moment too soon, as Nanjing’s current supermini, based on the 1984 SEAT Ibiza is well overdue for pensioning off…
Full-scale production has not yet commenced in Nanjing.
Silver MG7 was captured within the factory grounds earlier this week. It was built at the NAC-MG factory in Nanjing and is currently being used for evaluation purposes.
Duke Hale resigns
DUKE HALE, who surprised the industry last summer by announcing that MG cars would be produced in a new plant in Oklahoma, USA, has resigned from the company behind the venture.
Hale, previously COO of Isuzu Motors America Inc., vice president of sales for Mazda North American Operations, and head of sales and marketing for Volvo Cars North America, has now quit as chief executive of Oklahoma Global Motors, the U.S. joint venture partner with China’s Nanjing Automobile Group.
Hale and his team had plans to make MG a full-range brand in the United States. Last summer he announced plans for selling about 100,000 cars per year by 2010 through a 350-strong dealership network.
But Nanjing Automobile described the plan as ‘just an idea’.
Marc Nuttle, the chief investor in Oklahoma Global Motors, now says the departure of Hale will not affect revised plans to produce 20,000 cars in Oklahoma and 20,000 more in Longbridge, England, over the next two to three years.
Nuttle said he expects to sign license agreements with Nanjing by March 31 to allow him to build MG kit cars in the States.
The Classic British Sports Car From China
CRAIG S SMITH, The New York Times
Wang Hongbiao, the chairman of Nanjing Automobile in the United Kingdom, with a classic MG at a factory in Longbridge,
MG, the legendary British brand that expired after a lengthy illness, will be revived this month as a Chinese sports car when the Nanjing Automobile Corporation begins to produce convertible sports cars under that name in China.
An MG sports car in Longbridge, England, where new models are being designed. Nanjing Auto bought the rights to the MG name and its former production facilities two years ago.
The rebirth of MG is the latest and most splashy example of how China’s growing economic might is reaching carefully into foreign markets, buying up troubled companies with established brands and using them to build bridgeheads for some of the hundreds of billions of dollars that the country has to invest overseas.
“Within a very small period of time you will see a lot of industries following the same strategy,” said the chairman of Nanjing Automobile in the United Kingdom, Wang Hongbiao, whose stature and demeanor bring to mind Humphrey Bogart.
It is a cautious, even stealthlike approach, and a stark contrast to Japan and Korea, which spent billions of dollars over decades to build recognized brands through exports before establishing a high-profile corporate presence overseas. That era reached its peak with the purchase of Rockefeller Center by Mitsubishi Estate in 1989. These days, China also wants to avoid a political backlash, like the kind that has already scuttled at least one deal.
Still, China is in a hurry, and as it increases outward investment, many of its companies hope to leapfrog the expansion process by acquiring technology and distribution networks together with well-known names on which to build larger businesses.
The investment agency that China is setting up to diversify its $1.1 trillion foreign exchange holdings could provide another boost, particularly as the government sees the entire world — including developing countries in Africa and Latin America — as its stage for acquisitions.
It began when the Chinese television and mobile telephone maker TCL bought the bankrupt Schneider Electronics of Germany in 2002. The computer maker Lenovo acquired IBM’s troubled personal computer business in 2004.
Now, China Qianjiang Group, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in China, owns Benelli, the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in Italy. Shenyang Machine Tool Group has bought the 140-year-old German machine tool maker Schiess. Xinjiang Chalkis, a tomato producer, even owns a French tomato cannery and sells Chinese tomato sauce in Provence. All of those target companies were facing financial crises.
Many of China’s foreign purchases have been focused on energy resources, dominated by big state-owned enterprises like the national oil giants PetroChina and Cnooc, which have spent billions in recent years acquiring oil and natural gas fields. Those deals have helped swell the value of China’s foreign acquisitions to nearly $14 billion on more than 100 deals last year, from just $18.6 million in 1990, according to Thomson Financial, which tracks global investment trends.
But with the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world putting upward pressure on the yuan, China is now happy to have smaller companies invest some of that money overseas.
“Even five years ago, it would have been difficult to get approval for this kind of stuff,” said Jonathan Anderson, chief economist for Asia at UBS in Hong Kong. “But now the government is clearly giving companies a mandate to go out and make acquisitions.”
To encourage outbound investment, the commerce ministry now accepts applications online, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange has abolished quotas on the purchase of foreign exchange for such deals.
That has led to a sharp increase in deals all over the world.
Wanxiang Group, the biggest maker of drive shafts, shock absorbers and other car components in China, bought the American auto parts companies Schiller, Universal Automotive Industries and Rockford Powertrain, to get into the United States market with established brands.
Samson Holdings, a Taiwanese-owned China-based furniture maker, has done the same by buying the North Carolina furniture makers Universal Furniture, Legacy Classic and Craftmaster Furniture.
In 2004, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation took a controlling stake in Ssangyong Motor Company, the fourth-largest automaker in South Korea, in order to gain access to that market.
Still, the foreign investments are a trickle at this stage. Nanjing Auto, for instance, paid just over $100 million for the MG assets two years ago. “This is not Japan in the 1980s; this is Japan in the 1960s,” Mr. Anderson said.
Following the pattern of similar acquisitions, Nanjing has retained key managers while shifting much of the labour-intensive production back home where it is cheaper.
Even so, China’s overseas investments have already caused some alarm. In the United States, national security concerns over a takeover bid by Cnooc for Unocal in 2005 killed that deal. And a bid by Haier, a Chinese refrigerator maker, for Maytag was cut short the same year by a quick counter-offer from Whirlpool.
Emotions have already risen in Britain recently over Burberry’s plan to move production to China. Even Prince Charles has added his voice to protests that the quintessentially British brand would be made in China.
Given those problems, Nanjing Auto, China’s oldest automaker, is eager to keep a low profile and has been careful to preserve the British face of its famous brand — lest the reborn MG become nothing more than a Chinese competitor to the Mazda MX5. Earlier this year, Nanjing shipped eight vintage MGs to China as an introduction to the brand. The only twist: In China, Nanjing auto executives have told people that the MG stands for the more instructive ‘modern gentleman’ instead of the original meaning, ‘Morris Garages,’ where the cars were first made. MGs became classics of their time, beloved by generations. While the Italians built flashier sports cars for the rich, MGs developed a loyal following among aficionados who still refer to the distinctive logo as the ‘sacred octagon.’
“Emotion is the most important factor in purchasing cars,” Mr. Wang, 44, of Nanjing Auto, said. “That’s why we feel the brand is so important and is why we want to protect the British flavour of the brand.”
Rising labor costs and a series of missteps by British Leyland, the defunct company that manufactured MG during its 1960s heyday, led to the sale of MG to several different owners before bankruptcy finally ended production in April 2005.
Nanjing Auto bought all of the tangible assets from the MG plant, together with the rights to some of Britain’s most famous automotive brands, including MG, Morris, Austin and Austin-Healey.
It crated up most of the manufacturing equipment and shipped it to Nanjing, where it has been painstakingly reassembled.
On March 27, the 60th anniversary of Nanjing Auto, the Nanjing plant will start producing two MG models: the MG7, a five-seat, four-door sedan, and the MG TF2, a two-seat, two-door convertible sports car. It hopes to eventually export the MG7 to Europe.
But the company has also signed a 33-year lease on a portion of the Longbridge factory site and later this year will begin producing the MG TF2 there for sale in Britain and eventually continental Europe.
Negotiations are under way to produce a hardtop version of the MGTF roadster through a joint venture in Oklahoma, and Mr. Wang said he hoped Americans would be able to purchase an MG in the near future, depending on the company’s ability to meet federal regulations.
Initially, the cars will be updated versions of two-year-old models; Mr. Wang said the company would design all new models — a process under way — in Britain.
“It’s just like cooking,” he said, sitting in his corner office with Chinese, American and British flags on the carved wooden mantelpiece above a gas fire. “You have to keep the original flavour.”
Mr. Wang took a visitor across the empty factory compound to an unused conference centre that houses the office of Lord Austin, founder of the Austin Motor Company, later a part of British Leyland.
Inside the musty, wood-panelled office, filled with original furnishings, he pulled opened a drawer, releasing a hidden mechanism and allowing the top of Lord Austin’s heavy oak desk to slide back, revealing a secret compartment containing a guest book, its pages filled with the signatures of visitors to the legendary car company.
“Royalty signed here,” said Mr. Wang with evident enthusiasm at this bit of British heritage. The book contains the signatures of Prince Philip, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon.
A collection of gleaming cars is kept in the compound, including a lavish two-tone green 1938 MG saloon with graceful fenders and running boards, as well as an MGB sports car, the most popular British sports car ever made.
Not all Chinese companies are entering “through the backdoor,” as the Chinese like to say, by buying established brands. Changhong, one of the biggest television makers in China, has begun production of flat-screen TVs in the Czech Republic at a $100 million factory that it built from scratch.
Other TV makers in China have manufacturing operations in Europe to avoid paying the 14 per cent duty on imports to the European Union.
But that has not been the strategy for China’s bigger companies like Nanjing Auto.
“The Chinese strategy to get into the market is to go for mature, established brands that might have had some trouble,” Mr. Wang said. Organic growth is too costly and too slow, he said.
“An example is Yuejin,” he said, referring to Nanjing Auto’s truck brand, a household name in China. “It has a history of 50 years, but for this brand to go into the European or American market would cost us a lot of money because it’s not known in either market. To build a brand-new automotive platform would also cost us a lot of time and investment.”
Jaguar XJ8 receives makeover
JAGUAR’S flagship range, the XJ, has received a host of visual changes, technological advances and additional features for the 2008 model year. Already renowned for its all-aluminium body construction, state-of-the-art technologies and outstanding craftsmanship and build quality, the new XJ technical package has been brought into line with the opposition.
The key developments for every new XJ model include a more contemporary, assertive and sporting exterior look and significant improvements to the renowned interiors, as well as the latest intuitive in-car technology. An all-new, distinctive design for the XJ’s front gives the 2008 model an unmistakeably purposeful appearance, a look complemented by the new side power vents, lower body sills and a subtle rear aero spoiler. The fusion of contemporary and retro will no doubt cause controversy with potential customer, and it remains to be seen whether they will lift the poor sales of this model.
Inside the 2008 Model Year XJ cabin an all-new seat design offers major benefits in comfort and support, while customers will also have the option of adding an advanced air-cooling system to their heated front seats. Jaguar’s stated aim of introducing technology that enhances rather than impairs the driving experience is underlined by the addition of a substantially improved Bluetooth system that allows passengers to pair up to five approved mobile phones with the in-car telephone, which automatically stores and synchronises phonebooks and ‘last number dialled’ lists every time a phone is connected.
Gills are this year’s big thing…
The main evolution for the 2008 Model Year XJ is its new exterior design. Changes to the front, sides and rear of every model give the XJ a sportier, more muscular stance and clearly signal the advanced technology that lies at its core. A new front bumper with revised mesh grilles is unmistakeably assertive, leaving no doubts as to the performance credentials of the new XJ.
Jaguar Cars’ Director of Design, Ian Callum, explains the inspiration behind the new look: “Every Jaguar must have a distinctive face, something that you cannot mistake if you catch a glimpse of it in your rear-view mirror as it powers up behind you. The new 2008 XJ range meets that challenge thanks to a new grille and bold new bumper style.”
Set into the front bumper are new upper and lower mesh radiator grilles with chromed detailing that accentuates the car’s major air intakes. Behind the front wheels two power vents (in aluminium finish on the supercharged XJR) match those introduced on the XK sportscar. Over the vents new door mirrors carry integrated indicator lights.
A fully reworked rear end displays a newly reshaped bumper, subtle aero spoiler and revised tailpipe finishers.
Official: MINI ‘shooting brake’ will be called Clubman
THE International Automobile Salon in Geneva saw confirmation of the long-lived rumour that the MINI shooting brake addition to the range will resurrect the Clubman name. Used originally by British Leyland to differentiate the Roy Haynes fronted Mini, the Clubman name has been chosen because of confusion over the ownerhip rights of the Traveller nameplate.
Based on a concept first shown in Frankfurt in 2005, the new addition to the range will be on sale in the UK before the end of 2007. According to the press release, “The new car promises to be distinctive, yet authentically embody the MINI character. Offering more versatility without compromising the revered chassis of current Hatch models, the production version of the car is further evidence of MINI’s aim to break boundaries in car design.” Although there are worries that the single rear mounted RX-8 style ‘suicide’ door will not be adapted for Right Hand Drive markets.