By on January 25, 2010

Back to Birmingham. Picture courtesy

How about this for a world upside down: Instead of producing foreign cars in China, the Chinese will produce a foreign car, developed in China, in a foreign country. Such will be the case for the MG6. In a way.

China’s SAIC will manufacture its self-developed MG6-series sedan at its U.K. plant and sell the sedans across the European Union by the end of the year, SAIC’s  chairman said to Reuters.

“The idea is to take advantage of the existing MG sales network in the European Union as well as the cost advantage in China,” Hu Maoyuan told Reuters on the sidelines of Shanghai’s annual People’s Political Consultative Conference.

SAIC ended up owning MG Rover’s 10,000-unit Longbridge plant in Birmingham, after SAIC bought Nanjing Automobile Group in late 2007. They did not get the Rover brand, BMW had sold that brand to Ford, which in turn sold it to Tata, along with Jaguar and Land Rover.

Slighted SAIC then  launched their Roewe brand, which hasn’t made a big splash in China. Supposedly, “Roewe” sounds like “Rover” in China, but nobody in the West will get the pun.

And to be true, “self developed” is a bit of a stretch. The MG6 is based on the Roewe 550, which is based on the platform of the Rover 75. So by being produced in Birmingham, a bit of merry old England is returning to the Old Blighty.

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13 Comments on “The Long Road To Longbridge: MG Reborn In England...”

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz


    out of curiosity, have you had an opportunity to see / drive the new Roewe / MG products? Just wondering how they would stack up to the current competition in Europe.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    In other news, the UK correspondent for TTAC is out of a job! You sod, Bertel, I was going to write this up! :O)

    Anyway, back to topic. Anything which brings production, jobs and export value to the UK is OK in my book. Hopefully, they will sell. I always liked Rover cars, but sadly, not enough other people did.

    Incidentally, I’ve never heard of the UK referred to as “Old Blimey”. “Old Blighty” maybe.

  • avatar

    Sorry, Cammy, for making you redundant …

    Blimey changed to Blighty.

    Kristjan: Seen them, did not drive them. It would go against my do-not-drive-in-China policy.

  • avatar

    The Chinese MG has been available in S. America for awhile. Can’t remember which country. [Argentina ?? Help someone…]

    The MG Rover Org website has been following the developments closely and even featured launch pictures of the cars.
    There’s been some debate on the site as to whether there will ever be any production at all @ Longbridge, beyond the small #s of TFs built there now. This is good news. There was even some talk of a facility in OK to build there awhile back.

  • avatar

    Some comments/questions:

    1. Bertel: “They did not get the Rover brand, BMW had sold the brand that to Ford,…”.

    I think this is a bit (unintentionally) misleading … (IIRC-FFTCM) the transactions BMW-LR-Ford and SAIC-Nanjing-MGR were not contemporary … after BMW kept Mini, sold-off LR, it found no takers for the remaining MGR assets, and it wanted-out fast … due to the troubles surounding the MGRLR group (i.e. money flying down the drain and distractions aplenty from the core business of Ultimate Driving Machines, the BMW Supervisory Board (aka Quandt Family) pulled the eject lever for the two top guys in BMW (Bernd “got a cool Ludwig II-type goatee, drunkenly crashed a BMW-owned McLaren F1 almost killing myself, wife and a friend, survived, kept my (job and) license by paying alms to the poor, got canned over Rover, got a new gig at VW but got canned by that Austrian Machiavelli” Pischetsrieder, and W. “hot my Errol Flynn look, went to Ford failed at the PAG-thing, got canned now am selling industrial gasses and forklifts” Reitzle) around 2001 … and to totally extract themselves from their MGR foray/debacle, BMW did a buy-out deal with MGR management which to all intents and purposes was to “give” them the company, some cash, and to run-away back to Munich … MGR languished on, trying to eke out survival off an aging portfolio (MGF and R75) by putting lipstick on it and slowly burning through its cash and lines of credit … in the end, Nanjing bought it out of bankruptcy, and SAIC got it when they gobbled-up Nanjing…

    2. What means “produce at Longbridge”? Is it reverse (East-to-West) CKD? To take advantage of Chinese economic efficiencies, I would expect SAIC to limit investment to paint and assembly, and to import major stampings, components, engines and transmissions … but this is only a guess (I dont recall if it was E-W CKD, or W-E CKD, but didn’t Nanjing already do some CKD with the MGF?)

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    I know MG cars are sold in Chile, may be sold in other South American nations, as well.

    In photos, I’ve seen the production machinery taken out of Longbridge for shipment to China, so obviously either SAIC have to either buy new, send it back, or – more likely in my humble opinion – simply assemble CKD kits in Longbridge.

    But as Cammy says, any jobs sent into the UK is one more job that wasn’t there before so that’s at least a good thing.

    Plus exporting a portion of the cars to the mainland EC nations will enable some improved balance of trade compared to just importing CBU (completely built up) cars from China into the UK and Europe.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Chile. And yes the tooling and production machinery was “lifted and shifted” to China when Nanjing took over.

      Great book on the subject: “End Of The Road” which chronicles the fall of MG Rover and the back story of it’s BMW tie up.

  • avatar

    Poor investigative journalism by TTAC!

    MG and Roewe cars are actually designed by ex MG Rover engineers in the UK now based at Longbridge.

    Get your stories right please.

  • avatar

    Surely if they wanted, “to take advantage of the existing MG sales network in the European Union”, they would need to build a few DeLoreans first, with the flux capacitor option fitted of course.

  • avatar

    I am shocked. To be quite honest I never, ever thought any kind of car manufacturing would go back to Longbridge, even if it is just ‘re-assembly’. I guess the weak pound makes life a little easier.
    It’ll take a lot of time and money to get Longbridge operational again. The plant was running on some very old infrastructure and when the last worker left, the doors were locked and nobody has touched the site since. If anybody is interested, check out these photos where somebody snuck inside the closed plant:

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