Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Slovenia, Europe
Re: NAC-MG mean business at Longbridge
Longbridge announces new range of cars to be built in Birmingham.
MG, fresh from the successful relaunch of its TF roadster, has revealed details of a whole series of new models to be produced at Longbridge.
Safe in the knowledge of secure investment from its Chinese parent, Shanghai Automotive (SAIC), the company is planning a new large-size family car, a mid-range/small family car, a supermini and a replacement for the TF. There is even speculation that it could produce an MG-badged SUV, which would be a first in the company’s long history.
The first of the new models will be a variant of the Roewe 550, the large car which is was launched to acclaim at the Beijing Motor Show earlier this year.
The 550 already has a strong British pedigree having been designed and engineered at the Shanghai Mechanical Technical Centre in Leamington Spa.
It is likely to go on sale in 2010 and will be pitched against rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Vectra replacement, the Insignia.
The car will look different to its Chinese counterpart but will share the same platform. This will mean it can be quickly introduced to the production line at Longbridge.
The company will also have a more established dealer network by the time the car goes on sale and there are high hopes it will be able to compete with its more established rivals.
The lessons learned from the sale of the TF roadster are likely to be invaluable as it looks to secure a foothold in what are very different markets to those sought by the sports car.
The next model is said to be a Ford Focus size vehicle, which will pitch the company into the most competitive section of the car market.
However, it is relishing the challenge.
Spokeswoman Eleanor de la Haye said: “MG’s future is secure and there is a commitment to expanding the automotive business both in China and in Europe.
“We have been on site here for three years and have been through some difficult times but that is behind us and we are looking forward to the future.”
“Although the TF is a relaunch, all the other vehicles will be brand new,” she added.
In addition to the enhanced dealer network – which is likely to comprise around 55 outlets in the UK, the company has improved its production model, set up a new logistics chain, an after-sales service and has the UK-based design centre.
The TF will initially be launched in the UK and Ireland but by next spring this will have been expanded to include Italy, Spain, France and Germany and beyond that to other English speaking markets such as South Africa.
There is no word yet on whether the sports car will be sold in the United States but it is not ruling this out.
It believes there is vast potential for the sports car and it will act as a flagship for the MG brand throughout the world, while there are hopes that the new models could also find a market outside the UK.
The 550 is already proving popular in China, where more than 8,000 have already been sold, despite it only being on sale since April.
The TF is also proving a hit with the Chinese, with more than 2,500 models already sold.
In the UK, advance orders for the special edition LE500 have been strong, with 80 per cent of the 500 limited run already being snapped up despite the car not going into showrooms until next month.
However, British buyers will not have long to get acquainted with the roadster as a replacement is already being planned and the model could be available in around three years time.
MG production at Longbridge good for the Midlands.
The news that MG is to invest in new models for assembly at Longbridge is welcome news not just for the company but for the Midlands economy as a whole.
New jobs, secure investment and the continuation of a motoring heritage stretching back more than 80 years is an enticing proposition. But sentiment alone will not be enough to guarantee the future success of the company.
When it does come to launch its new products on the market the rejoicing at the brand’s rejuvenation could be short lived because the company is likely to face some stiff competition in the various sectors it has chosen to compete in.
The first model will be a European variant of the Roewe 550, which will be equivalent in size to a Vauxhall Vectra.
The 550, which has been designed and engineered by MG parent Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation at its Leamington Spa-based technical centre, was unveiled to the public at the Beijing Motor Show earlier this year and has been well received.
China’s emerging middle classes are increasingly becoming more affluent and desire a status symbol to go with it. The initial success of the Roewe 750, based on the old Rover 75, suggests that the car will find a ready market in China.
However, even upgraded for the European market will that success be repeated here - in what is one of the most competitive and overcrowded motoring sectors.
MG has not said where the vehicle’s market placing is likely to be but it is thought that it will pitched against the likes of the class-leading Ford Mondeo and the Vectra replacement, the Insignia, together with others including the Mazda 6, Toyota Avensis, Renault Laguna and Peugeot 407.
The MG will have to offer a lot more than the strength of its badge if it is to make inroads against these heavyweights.
However, the company is not deterred by the challenge and the lessons it will learn from the TF LE500 will be invaluable. If it can produce high specification cars very cheaply – something which MG Rover never could – then it may have it unique selling point and hence create a niche in the market.
Spokeswoman Eleanor de la Haye said: “The success of the Olympics has shown that when China puts its mind to something then it will see it through and make it work.”
Do not under-estimate this. The Chinese are in this for the long-term.
There may have been teething problems with the beginning of the project but the acquisition of Nanjing by SAIC has been the making of MG.
Behind it now is a company with 33,000 employees and one which sold 1.3 million vehicles in 2006, generating a profit of around £667 million.
Predictions are that the company could be worth around $22 billion – something which would make most motor manufacturers drool with envy.
The Roewe 550 variant will be brought on-stream very quickly, largely due to the shared platform it will be based on.
The tools can be adapted quickly and such is the spare capacity at Longbridge that accommodating production will not be a problem.
It is likely to be a more luxurious offering than the Chinese version, reflecting the more sophisticated European buyer. It will also be badged as an MG, underlining its desirability.
The car’s current styling betrays its Asian origins and the European model is likely to be facelifted to reflect different tastes, however, what is underneath the skin is likely to be little altered.
The car could be showrooms by 2010 and the company will be able to take advantage of a more mature dealer network by then.
Following the 550 variant will be a new Ford Focus rival – probably the most competitive of all car markets – and then a new supermini, which will have a ready market provided it fulfils the basic requirements of this sector, which is primarily economy – both in terms of price and running costs.
In three years’ time there will be a replacement for the TF, which by then will be a 20 year old design. No details on the costings of these models has been proposed but all will have to be carefully marketed if they are to achieve buyers, however, if the Chinese have their way then there will only be one victor.