Paul Stowe at http://paulstowemg.blogspot.com/
Friday, 1 June 2007
Longbridge Re-opens for Business
So the big day has come and gone, my BLOGS up to now have been generally mild mannered and tempered to reflect a conservative approach to ‘reporting’. I never intended my BLOG to be hard-hitting, or even critical – but unfortunately my temper has been stretched after watching Tuesday’s reports by the media.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not naive enough to have expected a rose tinted view on the opening of Longbridge – however I had hoped for an open minded approach to something that none of us ever believed we would see happen only 2 years ago.
Let me start by putting things into perspective.
Mid April 2005 will forever be etched on the hearts and minds of 1000’s of employee’s, suppliers, family’s and anyone associated with the Longbridge plant. It became clear during the days and weeks that followed, that there wouldn’t be any white knight in Shining Armour, no government rescue, not even a commitment from the preferred savior from China.
We watched as negotiation after negotiation, hope after hope disappeared into the distance, all we could do was observe, as our lives were ripped apart, livelihoods eradicated, dreams destroyed and futures left in doubt. The government poured millions into re-training and investigating what had caused such a disaster. The gates were locked and the plant mothballed, any future for the site looked bleak – former workers were told to move on, find new employment and leave the past behind.
Then a little known Chinese automotive company called Nanjing Automotive Corporation, managed to outbid a number of rivals to purchase the brand, the assets and the legacy that was MG and Longbridge. I wonder if they knew what they had exactly purchased? How deep the feelings for MG and Longbridge went, how significant the closure of Longbridge was to so many people, and just how well respected the MG brand was across the world. They made – some would say – ‘rash’ decisions and announced a commitment to keep Longbridge at the heart of MG’s future.
So a long journey started, a journey that meant an enormous investment by NAC in both time and money, immense challenges faced the company. With no production facility in China, no workforce, no suppliers, no infrastructure, no modern systems and no dealer network – NAC rose to the challenge and systematically achieved every goal that was set before them. One of those goals was the re-opening of Longbridge for production; May 29th 2007 was the internally issued date for this enormous challenge, and as with all of the official claims made by this company, that day saw a magnificent celebration to celebrate an achievement that few of us believed we would ever see again.
So why I am so angry you may ask? Well having spent the whole day answering questions by the British media, it became very apparent from the first discussion with journalists at 6.20am that the tone would be negative. I conducted over 25 interviews, and almost everyone followed the same script: Why weren’t we employing 1000’s of ex-mg-rover employee’s? Why aren’t we releasing new vehicle platforms? Why haven’t we already enlisted dozens of dealers? And why do we believe we can make a success of MG, when BMW, and P4 failed miserably?
There was no mention of those dreadful days in 2005, no mention of the investment made into the brand’s future, not even a whisper of the massive achievements made by NAC. All the broadcast media would do, was convey a pessimistic view on the whole proceedings. Maybe its because I have been out of the country for a while, and I have been used to a press association that try’s to reward great achievements and success, a system that promotes employment and regeneration, and actively encourages investment by ‘foreign’ companies.
I discussed this situation with various journalists, and tried to explain that without NAC we would could have been cutting the ribbon to yet another Lego land housing estate, or opening a trading estate providing consumers with more electronic gadgetry they didn’t know they needed. I tried to convey the fact that this was merely the beginning, and our plans extended far into the distance. Let NAC be judged over 5 to 10 years, not just a few months. Yes we have started conservatively, but I would rather be involved with a slow burning revolution, rather than a flash in the pan. We have all seen those who arrived spouted great things and systematically worn the company and its employee’s down to the ground, started large and brash and ended just as quickly.
Criticizing a company for employing local people, providing local investment and declaring a positive outlook for manufacturing at the heart of the British motoring industry doesn’t quite seem a balanced view – but then again maybe I’m biased?I truly believe that this is the re-birth of MG, not only in China – but also in the UK, and who knows maybe across the world. Good Luck Longbridge and NAC UK, but most of all good luck MG.
Posted by Paul Stowe