The relaunch of MG in the UK has been delayed by at least six months, CAR has learned.
Production of the revised, and Lotus-tuned, TF roadster has slipped back into 2008. CAR Online was told in May that the car would start to roll off the Longbridge line in September 2007, but the roadster's journey back from its deathbed has taken another twist.
A spokesman for NAC UK (Nanjing Automobile Corporation) gave the delayed launch date as the first quarter of 2008, but even that was described as ‘fluid’. He blamed the latest hitch on NAC's recent merger with SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), its rival bidder for MG Rover back in 2005.
The sale of MG Rover was a muddled affair, and the Government’s own investigation into why MG Rover collapsed has so far dragged on for 31 months, with no resolution. This has not stopped a number of ex-dealers, as well as businesses new to the brand, expressing an interest in joining the reborn network. NAC reckons it’s had 100 serious inquiries, and received 40 letters of intent. Stephen Cox, NAC UK’s franchising manager, said: ‘We are hugely encouraged by the response. There is still a huge interest in the MG brand’.
By the end of 2008 NAC hopes to have 60-70 dealers for complete geographical coverage of the UK. Spain will then be next on the agenda for NAC. But what of the car? By the time the TF goes back into production at Longbridge in 2008 it will be 13 years old, though it will only have one real rival in the shape of the Mazda MX-5. If the TF is priced cheaply it might just sell, but the planned launch car is a limited-edition, high-spec LE 500.
Capacity at Longbridge is now 15,000 cars a year, with 3000 units expected in the first full year of production. Longbridge is little more than an assembly plant for the TF, whose engines, transmissions and more are shipped in from China. The bodies themselves are actually made in the Longbridge plant, and a number of other parts are sourced from the UK, though no exact figures have been given. Just 250 workers will be employed at Longbridge when production is fully underway, far short of the 6000 who worked there under MG Rover's stewardship. Other models promised under the reborn MG brand have also slipped, with the coupe version of the TF now ‘under consideration’ rather than a definite. Either way, only the TF roadster will come out of Longbridge in 2008.