News : October 2006

Longbridge production of MG TF moves closer…

MG TF body production facility is moving from Stadco in Coventry to Longbridge – and a facelift is on the cars

JOHN REVILL, Manufacturing Editor, icBirmingham

THE return of car production to Longbridge will accelerate today when a key supplier signs a £3 million deal to restart body shell production at the former MG Rover site. Stadco, which used to supply the parts for the MG TF sports car, is one of 150 suppliers who have agreed to provide components for Nanjing Automobile’s (NAC) relaunch of the car next year.

Following a joint investment of more than £3 million, it has begun begin shifting part of its production from Coventry to Birmingham in a move which will generate up to 50 new jobs at Longbridge. The move, which is due to take place next month, could be followed by other manufacturers who have been approached to move to the factory.

The body shell facility had been mothballed at Stadco’s factory in Holbrook Lane when MG Rover collapsed into administration in April 2005. But following the signing of the deal – which could ultimately be worth up to £2 million per year to Stadco – the new facility will be set up early in the new year.

The new unit, based in the CAB B building, will resume production by April and start full production in time for the relaunch of the new TF sports car in July. Early volumes of the car are expected to be around 4000 vehicles per year, although this could rise to meet demand. Stadco, which took over the panel making business from Mayflower which collapsed in 2004, will lose no jobs in Coventry.

It expects to take on former MG Rover workers and Stadco workers who lost their jobs during the MG Rover collapse. Paul Jaggers, product engineering director of Stadco, said: “Over the time I have spent with NAC I believe they are very serious about being in the UK and European market.

“We see this as an opportunity to build this product and also to work together. We are also discussing opportunities in China. We see this as part of our global expansion strategy. This could lead to work on other platforms for NAC and in China. We are pleased to be part of the rebirth of the MG brand. We have got an emotional attachment to it going back to the work we did on the MG F. Mayflower were key in getting that car on the road and made substantial invest-ments in its facilities to do so. We built the body shell for ten years, and know how it all works. We were a key part in bringing that vehicle to market and we will be again.”

Andrew Morriss (CKD), managing director of Stadco, said: “This is an important stepping stone in the return of the MG TF. NAC has the will and the ownership and we have the skills and experience to bring this to reality.”

Stadco is also involved in the modifications to the TF design, including remodelling of its interior trim, bumpers, lamps, as well as a possible hard top coupe version which could be introduced in 2008. As part of the deal, a team from Stadco will also travel to China to help establish a body shell production facility for NAC’s new factory in Nanjing.

James Lin, operations director of NAC at Longbridge, said he welcomed the move, which could be followed by other suppliers. He said: “Stadco used to be an original supplier to Rover, so we know by working with them we can maintain the quality on important product. Stadco has also provided technical for our factory in China. This kind of project is the first stage in our global startegy. Stadco are good are engineering design and product development and have a very good understanding of the US market.”

As well as manufacturers, NAC has signed agreements with engineering service providers like MIRA and Prodrive. Seating manufacturers and wheel companies have also voiced an interest in moving to Longbridge, said Mr Lin.

Wagn Hong Biao, chairman of Nanjing Automotive UK, said: “We are pleased to secure Stadco as a supplier because they bring a wealth of experience with them.” Mr Lin, said: “There was rumours about us moving our operations to Coventry. That was wrong. What we are doing is moving Coventry operations to Longbridge.”

SAIC’s ‘Rover’ breaks cover

The new face of China’s 75…


SHANGHAI Automobile Industry Corporation (SAIC) has finally officially announced that its own brand name ‘Rong-wei (Roewe)’ will be applied to its version of the Rover 75, following the shock decision taken by Ford to retain the marque name for itself – and to complete the double whammy of news, a final prototype has been photographed, clearly showing the new badging and lightly altered styling.

The new car, which is called the 750 features the revised rear end as correctly predicted by, but holds few other technical surprises. The newly branded car is due to make its appearance later this month and forms the cornerstone of SAIC’s ambitious plans to enter the premium sector with the 75-based car.

Technical information about the car can be found in August’s news pages – although it’s interesting to see that just like the original Rover 75Mk2, the Roewe 750 will be available with two frontal styling schemes. The ‘E’ version as you see here with the slightly altered ‘Premium’ grille arrangement and the standard cars as scooped last month.

According to its Chinese website, the Rong-wei brand slogan will make great play of the car’s great history – although the Rover marque now belongs to Ford, and it’s take on the historic nameplate has been invented from scratch – including the rather interesting logo.

SAIC has also announced that its successor the Rover 75 will be the core product in a line-up of cars to be officially unveiled on the 24th October. It is understood that SAIC Overseas (Europe) R & D centre (formerly Ricardo2010) will be jointly responsible for the new models, which is rumoured to include a new version of the ill-fated RDX60/130 project.

SAIC vice chairman and SAIC president Chen Hong said: ‘The starting point for the ‘Rong-wei (Roewe)’ marque is new – and will mirror the values of middle and high-end brands. SAIC has taken an important step in achieving its goal of becoming an international carmaker.”

Rong-wei (Roewe) will sit in the upper-medium sector of the market – targeting customers who have traditionally favoured premium products. SAIC will be using the Rover 75 platform as a starting point in the development further models which fit into this premium market brief.

The front-end styling of the 750E apes the Peter Stevens-styled 75 V8, although the treatment of the chrome is heavy handed.

This is the best view yet of the re-styled tail-end of the car – a bulkier effort than the original car, which was disliked by the Chinese.

The 100mm wheelbase stretch is very apparent here.

The revised interior somehow looks lighter and more contemporary – this is the most impressive aspect of the SAIC facelift.

But how is it pronounced?

According to the Asian Wall Street Journal…

The new brand name, Roewe, appears similar to the Rover name that Shanghai Automotive attempted to buy from BMW last month. Ford, which now makes Land Rovers, exercised a right of first refusal and bought the name instead. Shanghai Automotive said the name is drawn from the German word loewe (lion), pronounced loh-vuh. That also is the name of a Spanish luxury-goods company, Loewe SA, a unit of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

The company suggests the English pronunciation should be transcribed roo-eevey or roo-ee (ru:ivi or reui, transcribing from the Chinese). The Chinese name for the brand is pronounced rong wei, which loosely translated means ‘glorious power’, but sounds similar in English to ‘wrong way’.

China’s ‘Wrong-Way?’

Keith Adams

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