An MG May Never Be Built in England Again
Nanjing, the owner of MG Rover, has effectively given up on the idea of producing the MG TF sports car, the model it had planned to produce at the former Longbridge plant.
Stadco, the specialty auto supplier, has decided to stop supplying body shells for the MG TF, which will drive costs up if Nanjing wishes to pursue production. Additionally, SAIC, Nanjing’s new owner, is reportedly not enthusiastic about Nanjing’s plan to produce the MG TF again.
Quoting from the Birmingham Post article, which quoted an “influential source” close to the project:
The source, who has declined to be named, said a lot of money would have to be spent to develop new versions of what was effectively an old model – the MGF.
Then he said there were serious questions to be answered – could it sell sufficient volume? Could the group meet quality standards? Could they develop an engine? Could they meet environmental requirements?
“It is a tall order,” he cautioned. “It is a huge task.”
He pointed out that far more attractive operations had also struggled.
Jaguar had been “taken to the brink” before being acquired by Indian conglomerate, Tata; Aston Martin was reliant on Qatari money and Russian Nikolai Smolenski had baulked at producing TVRs at Blackpool.
“If SAIC/Nanjing thought they could produce cars at Longbridge economically, then I am sure they would,” he said.
“But can they do it economically?
“I cannot see them prepared to spend the sorts of money required. It was always wishful thinking that something would happen. “I accept that some people within Nanjing had intentions to produce. But I have never had the impression they were serious about it.”
He said Nanjing never had the capital to do it and SAIC was pro-occupied with making the merger of the two work.
“There is no emotional connection to Longbridge,” said the insider. “How would they compete? Who would buy the cars?
“I don’t think they will ever produce anything there,” he said.
The claims were backed up by a second source who said the decision by Stadco had effectively brought the curtain down on the Nanjing project.
“There is a very real fear now that they will just pull out altogether,” said the source.
“The best scenario for Longbridge would be for them to make the panels in China and then send them to Birmingham. But why would they that – why not just assemble the cars in China.”
Suppliers have been desperate for some clue as to what the Chinese might be planning but with no word coming out of SAIC, they remain in the dark.
Stadco was just one of about 150 companies supplying components to the MG TF but despite investing heavily in a new operation at Longbridge, its patience eventually ran out.
It announced on Friday it was withdrawing from its contract to supply panels for what it called “commercial reasons”. The decision has put 30 jobs at risk.
When Nanjing originally announced the reopening of the famous Longbridge plant, hopes were high that the Chinese company would employ a considerable amount of the former workers, but those hopes were quickly dashed after Nanjing stated that only the MG TF would be produced there. The recent news seems to have put an end to even that slim hope.
Strangely enough, Nanjing had also planned to produce the MG TF in the small town of Ardmore, Oklahoma in the United States. That early announcement, made quickly after their purchase of MG Rover, was met with head-scratching on both sides of the Atlantic. And after that early announcement, nothing much was ever heard about Ardmore, Oklahoma again, even though Nanjing said they had to make MGs in the United States since they were going to sell so many of them in the United States after the triumphant return of the MG octagon to these shores.
It now looks as if MGs will be built in China, if and when they are built. The company had the best intentions when making public statements, but it appears that they were ill equipped to make a viable business out of their prize acquisition.
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