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Lotus revamps 2007 MG TF

Published: 24 July 2006

The MG TF will be reborn at Longbridge in 2007 - and the roadster has been overhauled by the ride and handling experts at Lotus.

Nanjing Automotive Corporation, the Chinese company that bought the assets of the bankrupt MG Rover in 2005, has lifted the lid on its plans. Assembly of up to 15,000 TFs annually will begin in the first half of next year, at the mothballed West Midlands plant. CAR Online can confirm that Lotus Engineering has upgraded the K-series four-cylinder engine to meet Euro 4 emissions, essential for the TF to be allowed back on European sale in the second half of 2007. Nanjing has also commissioned Lotus engineers to sharpen the mid-engined roadster's ride and handling.

The Longbridge plant will become Nanjing's European R&D centre. Some 57 people are already employed there, although this number could triple when TF assembly restarts. The cars will be put together from kits of parts, sourced primarily from Chinese suppliers. The real action is taking place in China, however. Nanjing has stripped the Longbridge assembly lines and shipped them to its home province. A new factory will be fitted out by autumn 2006, with annual production of around 200,000 MG saloons starting from 2007. The plant will also churn out 250,000 engines and 100,000 transmissions.

Nanjing plans to reintroduce the ZT into the UK market in 2008. But first it must rebuild the dealer network, which won't be easy without proving that attractive new cars are in the pipeline. The ZT will go head to head with a stretched version of the 75 saloon, under development by another Chinese firm, Shanghai Automotive. Shanghai was the firm negotiating an alliance with MG Rover, when the Midlands firm went bust in April 2005. But before it called off the deal, Shanghai secured the rights to produce the 75 by injecting £67m into the failing business. Despite this windfall, MG Rover - Britain's last independent volume car maker - collapsed, with the loss of 5500 jobs.

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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