News : September 2006

NAC-MG opens new powerplant factory


Getting there

NANJING Automobile Corp, the Chinese owner of the assets of British carmaker MG Rover, said it will begin producing MG engines this month, a step toward reintroducing the oldest English car brand on the world market.

The company plans to manufacture 1.8-litre, 1.8-litre turbo and 2.5-litre V6 engines on MG assembly lines this month, according to a statement yesterday. The assembly lines were dismantled and shipped from Britain to the Chinese company’s Jianglin plant in Nanjing after it outbid Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp to take over MG’s production facilities for 53 million pounds (US$100 million) last July.

“The move represents crucial progress for our car projects, and the power train systems are the most valuable assets,” said Sun Honggen, general manager of Nanjing Auto MG Power Train Co Ltd. The power train program is part of the global revival plan for the British car brand. It follows a new vehicle plant in Oklahoma City in the United States in addition to resumed production at the old MG Longbridge assembly plant near Birmingham, England.

Nanjing Auto aims to produce 50,000 engines annually in another new plant in its home city starting next year.

Rimmer Bros cheaper than XPart for MGR car parts


RIMMER Bros has issued a new version of its Popular Parts Guide for MG Rover vehicles. The new full colour listing includes genuine and aftermarket parts and accessories and runs to 70 pages. All Rimmer prices are lower than the XPart RRP…

Free copies are available from Rimmer Bros via email to, Tel 01522 563344 or through its website.

SAIC set to acquire global automotive consultancy Ricardo 2010


THE Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, the Chinese group with rights to the Rover 25 and 75, is expected to take over a West Midlands-based technological joint venture operation. Ricardo, the global automotive consultancy which runs the joint venture at its drive-train site at Leamington Spa, said yesterday that SAIC is expected to exercise an option to acquire the operation, called Ricardo 2010, before June 2007 for a nominal £1.

The research and development centre was set up as a wholly-owned Ricardo subsidiary employing about 150 mainly ex-MG Rover engineers in May 2005 to work on new cars for SAIC.

They are working mainly on a development of the 45, which essentially will be a new car designed and built to European standards. There are no indications yet where or when the new car will be launched or under what name.

Ricardo derives income by charged 2010 fees for managing and administering the R&D centre plus a service charge. Ricardo said in a note to its annual financial results statement yesterday that SAIC will keep the operation at Leamington and buy in administrative services from Ricardo.

The Sussex-based group yesterday reported underlying profits before tax for the year to June 30 of £14.5 million, an increase of 26 per cent over the previous 12 months. That figure excludes an exceptional payment of £3.7 million into the group’s pension fund.

Turnover last year rose by nine per cent to £173 million.

Ricardo, which works closely with most of the world’s major carmakers and Tier One components suppliers, said that despite the “continued challenges” facing the industry, its order book grew year on year to £72.2 million from £69.7 million and that it has a “strong pipeline of prospects”.

The company’s flagship projects include work on the world speed record-beating diesel-powered JCB vehicle and transmission systems for supercars such as the Ford GT and the Bugatti Veyron.

It is also working on clutch components for the MacLaren Formula One car. Chief executive Dave Shemmans said: “I am very pleased with this set of results that again show stronger revenues and growth in profits.

“Our Leamington operation is absolutely buzzing and is going from strength to strength.”

Ford buys Rover… name


THE prospect of Rover rising from the ashes was revived once again yesterday as Ford, the ailing American car manufacturer, bought the rights to the former luxury British car marque for about £6 million from BMW.

Ford is not expected to bring back the Rover in its old form — a quintessentially British luxury saloon — but is working on plans to introduce a range of Rover branded vehicles to fit within its Land Rover range, a source close to the company said. Ford was granted an option of first refusal to buy the Rover brand when it acquired Land Rover from BMW for $2.7 billion in 2000.

Ford, which did not disclose officially the financial terms of its agreement with BMW, said that it had exercised the right to buy the Rover brand to protect Land Rover, which is part of its Premium Automotive Group (PAG). ‘We believed then [in 2000], as we do now, that it is in the interests of the Land Rover business to own the Rover trademark,” Ford said.

Although Ford would not comment on the future of the Rover brand, sources said that the company wanted to build further upon its successful Land Rover brand in North America and has plans to design a so-called ‘crossover vehicle” using the Rover brand. ‘Land Rover could be one member of a new Rover family,” the source said, ‘with Range Rover and who knows what other kind of ‘Rover’.”

Crossover vehicles are smaller more fuel-efficient versions of the gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs) that are becoming less popular in America. Land Rover already makes the Freelander, which is similar to a crossover vehicle, but it has not proved popular in the United States. The Rover brand was not included in last year’s deal to sell MG Rover to Nanjing Automobile Group, of China, which is planning to manufacture MG-branded sports cars at Longbridge, Birmingham, but it is understood that the Chinese company, and others, had expressed an interest in buying it.

The outside interest, which also came from Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), of China, which owned the rights to build two Rover models before the company collapsed, is understood to have spurred Ford to exercise its option to buy the brand. SAIC is in a joint venture with both General Motors and Volkswagen to manufacture cars in China.

Ford made the surprise move yesterday, as it was revealed that the carmaker recently held brief preliminary talks about a merger or alliance with its arch-rival General Motors. The talks, between Don Leclair, the chief financial officer of Ford, and Fritz Henderson, his counterpart at GM, were held in August, but are not expected to be revived and no deal between the two is expected to emerge. GM has also been in talks with Renault, of France, and Nissan, of Japan, about a possible three-way alliance. The talks do not seem to have advanced since they were announced in July, however.

Ford and GM are struggling in the face of increased competition from Asian carmakers and rising labour costs.

Last week Ford offered redundancy packages to all 82,000 of its hourly unionised workers and said that it also would cut 14,000 salaried jobs.

The company declined to comment about the talks with GM.

MG aims for 90 UK dealers


DUKE HALE, head of MG Cars North America/Europe Inc, has said that the TF Roadster will be sold through a 90-strong dealer network in the UK.

He was speaking, yesterday, at the Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit. He added that test models of the car will be ready in the early part of 2007.

In France, Italy and Spain, the plan is for the car to be sold through importers. He also re-affirmed plans to revive the British sports car in the US market by June 2008.

“Based upon our sales ambition and based on where we think our product line will be, we think we need to be looking at a dealer body that’s about 300, up to 350 dealers,” (in the US) Hale said. The company is preparing distribution plans aimed at large American cities. Dealers in the States will be required to run an exclusive MG showroom but share service and parts with other brands.

By 2010, he said the American venture could be selling about 100,000 unit’s a year, made up of the TF Roadster, Coupe and a saloon car. The new company plans to assemble the cars in Oklahoma, based on kits manufactured by Nanjing in China. The company is currently preparing plans for the American factory. Similarly, the Longbridge site in England, will assemble cars from components shopped from China.

Asked if the 2008 launch date in the US was feasible, he said: “I think the timetable is fairly reasonable and not a stretch at all.”

New engines coming on stream…


New derivatives of the K-Series engine will be rolling off the production line in China very soon…

IT looks like NAC-MG’s plans to get its new-generation ZT based car (the 7Z) into production have taken a serious step forwards, with the imminent opening of a brand new engine building facility in the company’s home city of Nanjing.

According to sources in the far East, the new engine building facility will be opened in front of the world’s media on the 26th September – with an accompanying fanfare…

He told “NAC-MG will open the new engine facility with a hiss and a roar, and what is being dubbed the N-Series engine will be revealed to the honoured guests and media.”

The rapid pace of development clearly demonstrates that the Chinese are taking the MG rebirth very seriously indeed – and the company’s results have shown just how quickly it can get things done – with the resumption of the production of new body panels, and their subsequent shipping back to the UK being one such project.

We also hear that SAIC is busily completing the final testing and chassis development of its own version of the new Rover 75 – Ricardo 2010’s engineers are busy working in secret locations near the Gobi Desert in order to perfect the ride/handling compromise of its important new car…

Keith Adams

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