NAC-MG – Next stop, Russia
RUSSIA’S Avtotor plant is in talks with Chinese Nanjing Automobile to set up an assembly line for MG cars in Kaliningrad in what could be Avtotor’s second Chinese export project. The car maker has recently announced that its joint plant with China’s Chery would be exporting half of its production to Europe.
A high-placed source of Kommersant in the car industry reported that a delegation of Nanjing Automobile and its president had visited Avtotor’s facilities two weeks earlier and signed a memorandum, declaring intentions to set up a joint production in Kaliningrad. Details of the projects are to be settled by this fall when the business plan and market research are ready.
Avtotor’s Executive Director Alexander Sorokin confirmed the reports, saying that “Nanjing Automobile is extremely interest in exporting MGs to Europe.” The official declined to give further comment. A Kommersant source familiar with the situation said that the MG assembly at Avtotor would amount to at least 25,000 cars which would include MG7 hardtops. The project would see the CKD assembly.
British MG Rover, which owned MG and Rover trademarks, went bankrupt in 2005. Nanjing Automobile bought the company’s production assets for $86 million, keeping the right to use the MG brand and selling the Rover brand to Ford.
The MG deal is not the first Chinese project of Avtotor. The Russian car maker earlier announced that its joint plant with China’s Chery would be exporting half of its production to Europe.
Longbridge re-opens and MG fever takes over
The revised TF features a reprofiled front bumper, and new instrument pack (download alternative hi-res image).
AS recently as a year ago, no one within Birmingham would have dared believe that the iconic car factory, affectionately known as ‘The Austin’ by locals, would have re-opened amidst scenes of triumphant optimism – but, thanks to China’s millions and a little British know-how, the dream of car production re-starting at Longbridge has now been realised.
In July 2005, Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) purchased the MG brand, the rights to produce the company’s model range, as well as other assets for £53m – and, since then, has invested over £250m into the venture, although mainly in China.
Initial plans for Longbridge appear modest with the only product confirmed for production is a very lightly warmed-over version of the TF Roadster. However, NAC’s Chief Executive Officer, Yu Jian Wei, confirmed that the next stage of the MG rebirth would involve further product lines, depending on how well received the TF on the marketplace.
Longbridge will also encompass the European Research and Development Centre for MG, and it will also recruit personnel for both the UK and China. As well as being the manufacturing base for the UK and Europe, Longbridge it will also become the sales and marketing centre for Europe. Currently 130 people are employed in the factory which had 6000 workers when it closed in April 2005.
Not much additional flesh was put on NAC’s production plans for the West Midlands’ factory, but the company has previously been reported as saying that “it initially planned to invest £10m to produce 15,000 cars a year” at Longbridge. Major body pressings will be sourced in-house within the factory complex, which occupies less than a quarter of the old Longbridge site. However, the Euro IV version of its K-Series engine (now known as the N-Series), along with other important componentry, would be imported from China.
Yu Jian Wei (centre): “The TF will be back on sale later this year…”
Longbridge is part of NAC-MG’s global expansion plan – and, although no comment was made about its venture in the USA (as well as possible plans for Kaliningrad in Russia), the will seems to be there at the highest level to make this happen. NAC-MG is talking in terms of future annual production capacity of 250,000 cars per annum, which will be achieved following the arrival of further new sportscars (including the TF2 hardtop), and the MG7 saloon.
The new TF, which features a new and sleeker bumper pressing and an all-new instrument pack but retains the existing chassis settings unchanged, was shown to the press emerging from the end of the vehicle assembly line. Three examples then led a cavalcade of classic MGs through the Longbridge site, in the shadow of the iconic Conference Centre.
NAC-MG’s Quality Director, and amiable media front man, Paul Stowe, was there to see the re-opening, just as he had been in Nanjing’s Pukou production facility back in March. He summed up his own feelings by saying: “It’s incredible just how much work has been achieved in such little time. Two years ago, when it looked like it was over for MG, Nanjing stepped in with little financial assistance, and got the job done.”
Unlike previous brand re-launches at Longbridge, there was a definite sense of cautious optimism this time around, despite there being no new metal on show. The marque’s new Chinese overlords were not ones for making promises that they weren’t sure they could keep, and that meant that there were no solid launch dates given (other than “…sometime in September/October”); no claims about the dealer network being in place; and certainly no hints about what would be rolling off the line next at Longbridge.
As Yu Jian Wei joked, “If all of you today buy one of our new TFs, we’d be well on the way to reaching the next phase of our plan for the UK.”
For more information, click on www.mg-uk.co.uk
Minutes before the off…
…and the wraps come off
Gaydon re-opens in style
THE wait is finally over – and one of the UK’s biggest and most successful car museums makes a welcome return after being closed for five months for re-furbishment. A £1.7m grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund has enabled the Heritage Motor Centre to open a new exhibit called Life’s Highway, as well as housing the vast Nick Baldwin collection – an online record of pictures and articles, spanning the history of motoring – which is fully browsable, and will grow as the entire collection is placed online.
Life’s Highway is a fully interactive walkthrough of British motoring history, and as well as featuring the cars and factories that make up our industry, focuses on the people that were most intimately involved. The exhibit is designed to give visitors an insight into life at various time periods in the history of great factories, such as Longbridge and Ryton, and includes many never-before-seen pictures and films – including a unique colour movie clip of the Home Guard at the Austin factory in Birmingham.
The line-up of cars in the rest of the museum will be familar to regulars – although fewer are on display, and will be rotated more often, you can get a lofty view of the collection from the newly installed mezzanine floor. The exhibition will also show the change in the industry that dominated the West Midlands, and which now, by and large, has disappeared from the landscape.
Nick Baldwin, who was present at the media opening said: “It’s fantastic to be involved in such an important project, and I hope that the collection will bring pleasure to generations of transport enthusiasts.”
For more information, click on www.heritage-motor-centre.co.uk
MGs to roll off Longbridge production line
JOHN REVELL, icBirmingham
ONE of the most famous marques in British automotive history will be officially reborn in Birmingham when the production lines restart at Longbridge next week.
Tuesday will be the day which many MG enthusiasts feared they would never see after the carmaker was plunged into administration two years ago.
A new pre-production MG sports car will be driven off line by new owners, the Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC), at a special ceremony at the once dormant plant. Roche Bentley, chairman and founder of the MG Owners club, said: “This is something which we did not think would happen – we are going to see an MG coming off the line at Longbridge again.
“It’s a day of celebration, it is going to be emotional. MG is probably the most famous name in British automotive history after Rolls Royce, and it will be great to see it back. The alternatives were unacceptable.”
Attended by figures from the council and NAC, as well Liang Bahou, governor of Jiangsu Province of China, the ceremony will also see the unveiling of new MG models designed for the European market and set to be produced at Longbridge. The restart is expected to directly create up to 300 jobs for local people, with future expansion and job creation dependent upon car sales.
This figure is a mere fraction of the 6500 employed by MG Rover before mounting losses and falling sales triggered the company’s collapse in April 2005. Coun Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham council, said: “This is a significant day for Birmingham and the West Midlands, one that many people thought would never happen.
“Over the last two years we have worked tirelessly behind the scenes with NAC to build relationships and make this outcome a reality.
“NAC has made their commitment to Birmingham, and I believe it is a commitment that will last. They have already made us their European headquarters, and a centre for research and development. “In all my dealings with NAC, I have been impressed with their commitment to the plant and am confident that Longbridge will once again become renowned as a by-word for excellence, a real centre of high-class manufacturing.”
Nanjing Automobile, which bought the assets of MG Rover for £53 million in July 2005, has already constructed an 800,000 sq metre factory in China. The plant will eventually employ 4500 people and produce up to 200,000 cars per year. NAC chairman Wang Hang Biao said: “We are excited about the prospect of manufacturing the new MG TF in the UK and are extremely grateful for all the support the leadership of the council has given us.
“At the beginning of our time in Birmingham, we were facing great difficulties in proceeding our business plans and coping with culture differences. However, the encouragement and support we have received from the city has made us sure that we will succeed. We are looking forward to working in Birmingham to make the MG brand highly regarded once more.”
www.austin-rover.co.uk will be at the official opening ceremony on the 29th May, and will be bringing you all the news and pictures…
Land Rover donates four millionth vehicle to Born Free
LAND ROVER today passed a historic milestone when the four millionth vehicle rolled off the production line, 59 years after production began at the company’s factory in Solihull. The car, a Discovery 3, was donated to the Born Free Foundation, a charity dedicated to wildlife conservation and animal welfare. It was collected by the actress Joanna Lumley, Born Free’s Founder patron, and will become a ‘Rapid Response Rescue’ vehicle for deployment across the UK and Europe.
Will Travers, Born Free chief executive, said, “This important vehicle will enable us to carry out important frontline conservation and animal welfare missions at will. Without Land Rover’s support we simply would not be able to reach some of the off-road remote destinations or tackle some of the rescues that are a vital part of our work.”
This summer is likely to see the Born Free Rapid Response Rescue Discovery 3 extensively used by Born Free’s partner, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, rescuing, treating and releasing stranded or abandoned marine mammals, especially Common and Grey seals, who frequently get into trouble along Britain’s shores during the breeding season. Born Free has been one of Land Rover’s Global Sponsorship Partners since 2002. The sponsorship includes financial and vehicle support in the UK, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sri Lanka. In 2006 Land Rover’s support contributed to the rescue and relocation of three lions from a circus in France to Shamwari in South Africa.
Land Rover has pioneered responsible off-roading through its ‘Fragile Earth’ policy for many years and currently works with Earthwatch, Royal Geographical Society (RGS), China Exploration and Research Society (CERS), and Biosphere Expeditions. Land Rover helps sustain over 50,000 jobs and exports 78% of all production, generating substantial wealth for Britain. Since the production of the 3 millionth Land Rover in 2001, an average of 700 cars have rolled off the production lines per day.
Phil Popham, managing director of Land Rover, said, “We are delighted to hand this car over to Born Free. The production of the four millionth Land Rover is a major milestone and it is only fitting that it goes to such a worthy cause. I’m proud of our support for the charity and the company’s contribution to both the local and national economy over the past 59 years.”
Longbridge re-opens at the end of the month
icBirmingham – LINK
The huge car plant at Longbridge is to officially reopen at the end of the month – two years after closing following the collapse of motor giant Rover, it was announced today.
A special ceremony will be held at the Birmingham plant on May 29 to mark the next phase in the re-starting of car production. New owner Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) is to build TF sports cars at the factory, with models due off the production line later this year.
Pre-production MG TF sports cars will be driven off the newly re-commissioned production line at Longbridge on May 29 as part of the ceremony. Officials attending the event will include Mr Liang Baohua, Governor of Jiangsu Provincial Government, the home province of NAC.
New NAC-MG press pictures accompany some good news
The TF looks good on its new 16-inch wheels
The news that Longbridge is gearing up for a streamlined version of MG TF production has been met with caution by our NAC-MG mole… After a look around CAB 1 to see that there was a small number of pre-production TFs rolling down the line in brilliant white, and sitting pretty on new 16-inch wheels – the opinion of our man was clear: NAC-MG means business, but there’s some way to go yet.
However the Chinese operation is moving from strength to strength, and is throwing the everything including the kitchen sink into ensuring the MG name is launched in China with a high-profile media assault. The TF, MG5 and MG7 were met with enthusiasm by the Chinese buying public at the recent Shanghai Motor Show, and it seems that the marque’s ‘Englishness’ is being bought into big time.
Over here, there are moves to get the dealer network up and running again, as reported last month, but the PR campaign is yet to kick off. However, we did manage to get a couple of press photos from NAC-MG in the UK, and although the MG TF looks pukka (see the wheels), we’re confused by the MG7. Yes. it’s a Mk1 ZT, just as was shown at the NAC-MG launch in March, but at the recent Shanghai Motor Show, the MG7 was clearly based on the Mk2 ZT… Curiouser and curiouser…
There’s also a new NAC-MG UK website holding page to keep you amused. Click here.
We’ll keep you posted.