Nanjing Auto, a major Chinese domestic automaker, made plenty of headlines when it acquired the remains of the bankrupt British automaker, Rover. But it topped that act, last year, when the company announced plans to produce a new version of Rover’s classic-reborn MGF sports car – at a plant inOklahoma, of all places.
Since then, there’ve been a series of conflicting reports suggesting Nanjing/Rover has scuttled the deal. But reports of the death of the American MG have been greatly exaggerated – well, at least maybe, according to MG CEO Zhang Xin.
There’s no question that the MG will go back into production in the U.K., “around midyear,” Zhang told TheCarConnection.com. Sales expectations are small, at least initially, he explained, through an interpreter, somewhere between 3000 and 10,000 annually, at least initially. “We need to understand the U.K. better,” Zhang said, conceding that European consumers are more quality sensitive than those in China, and that will require a new emphasis on getting things right as the production line starts back up in Longbridge. The facility, which built Rover products before the company failed under British ownership, will focus on final assembly. Key components, such as the MGF’s engine, will come from China.
As for U.S. production, plans to build an assembly line in Oklahoma are apparently nowhere near as firm as originally reported. MG very definitely wants to produce the MGF in the States, asserted Zhang, but “we’re (still) in negotiations” with potential partners.” The discussions are “very complex,” he added, meaning no hard deadline. One of the challenges will be to homologate the MGF to meet American safety and emissions regulations. That was a challenge that previously stymied the car’s U.K. producer.
During MG’s news conference at the Shanghai Motor Show, the automaker unveiled a second product, an updated version of the old Rover 75, now badged MG7 (and quite similar to the Roewe W2 Concept, shown by another Chinese maker, SAIC.) Now in final preparation for launch, later this year, Zhang said the MG7 “and all our (future) cars” will be earmarked for export as well as for sale in the huge and fast-growing Chinese domestic market.
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