Richard Bremner visits MG's new Shanghai plant to find out about its plans

MG's Chinese owners are determined to make it a great brand again - Richard Bremner visited SAIC's new plant in Shanghai to find out about its plans.

MG and Roewe's two year old Lingang Factory is an impressive sight. Said to be the most modern in China and set on a huge greenfield site outside Shanghai, it is every inch the advanced, sophisticated plant that its Chinese owners wanted it to be.

See the exclusive MG factory in Shanghai pictures

The only thing that seems out of place at this site is the badge – a large MG octagon emblazoned at the entrance, and a familiar Rover based Roewe badge as well.

The Lingang factory is very different from MG’s old home at Longbridge, and it will need to be if MG and Roewe are to achieve the level of success expected of it by parent company Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

Longbridge, MG Rover’s old home in Birmingham, is now a shabby and apparently silent remnant of what was once the largest car factory in Europe. The last time any serious new buildings were built at Longbridge was in the run up to the launch of the Metro, 30 years ago.

So, here in China, it's something of a shock to see so many new buildings and shiny new hardware dedicated to making cars wearing MG badges.

SAIC is China’s biggest car manufacturer, with its joint ventures alongside General Motors and Volkswagen producing millions of cars annually.

See the exclusive MG factory in Shanghai pictures

But while SAIC is a massively successful builder of other people’s cars, its long term ambition is to manufacturer vehicles under its own brands and become the leading car maker in China. MG and Roewe are a major part of those plans, chiefly with the MG3, MG6, Roewe 350 hatchback and 550 saloon.

These cars are currently easing off the end of a quiet and well-organised production line in a relentless stream. Roewe’s sales have risen by 358 per cent in the first four months of the year, and MG’s by 211 per cent as SAIC targets the lucrative Chinese market.

The Lingang plant is building the MG6 hatch and Roewe 350 saloon, and a chance to drive them both fresh off the production line highlights their promise. The MG6 has pleasingly tidy handling and the interior is decently appealing, if a little plasticky. The suspension is quiet and structure strong, the impressive refinement only broken by the stressed sounding N-series turbocharged engine.

This is important, as the MG6 will be built in the UK at Longbridge by the end of this year in 1.8 turbocharged form.

See the exclusive MG factory in Shanghai pictures

SAIC product planning boss Liu Tao says, “Our vision is to exploit overseas markets. They will be very important for us.” This is where the UK comes in, as it will form SAIC’s manufacturing and export base in Europe. Longbridge is also the key engineering and design centre for SAIC’s own brands, and all new Roewes and MGs are created here by a staff of 300. They’re working on a new diesel engine aimed specifically at Europe too.

The just unveiled MG Zero city car is also a candidate for production at Longbridge, alongside the MG6. “With the MG6 to sell, we have one range,” says European sales and marketing boss Guy Jones. “The smaller models give us a business plan and a brand with a future.”

So while the massive growth and success of MG and Roewe in China continues, does this mean a return to real car production at the historic Longbridge site? If SAIC can successfully re-establish MG in Europe, and if the expected reclassification of China’s currency occurs, then there is a real chance the factory really will be turning out tens of thousands of cars again. And if our drives in the MG6 are anything to go by, the cars will be worth the wait.

The full test review is available in this week's Autocar magazine, on sale now.

See the exclusive MG factory in Shanghai pictures

Richard Bremner

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Comments
9

26 June 2010

[quote Autocar]MG and Roewe's two year old Lingang Factory is an impressive sight. Said to be the most modern in China and set on a huge greenfield site outside Shanghai,[/quote]A greenfield site? Ah, progress is a wonderful thing. What was there before it was "landscaped"? An agrarian village that had survived centuries, fields ploughed and planted by farmers, a village of craftsmen and their families, removed so the west could have ersatz MGs?

26 June 2010

[quote Los Angeles]An agrarian village that had survived centuries, fields ploughed and planted by farmers, a village of craftsmen and their families, removed so the west could have ersatz MGs?[/quote]

I seem to be agreeing wih you too much lately!

26 June 2010

[quote ischiaragazzo]I seem to be agreeing wih you too much lately![/quote]Feel free, but expect to get mocked by those holding an opposing view. Perhaps an instance will arise where I can return the compliment. I must say, to a lone Internet skier on a cold anonymous website out-of-the-blue support is as welcome as a good malt whisky around the neck of a St. Bernard! Slainte!

26 June 2010

does anyone care about MG any more, is patriotism so powerful and yet blind that it will woo all the customers back out of their Protons, Kias and Hyundais

26 June 2010

Absolutely! Go for it MG! this is great for so many people in the UK, and especially for the designers, engineers, and for the guys at MG Birmingham who will be recruited to build the new MGs

There'll always be whingers on the horizon, can you imagine how would have they carped when the wheel was invented? 'Oh no, we're all going to be run over by those nasty things', you can just hear them!

The old gits never like change do they?

26 June 2010

[quote vava1]The old gits never like change do they? [/quote]Old git or young git, change treats all equally bulging out our pockets.

5 July 2010

[quote Los Angeles]

[quote vava1]The old gits never like change do they? [/quote]Old git or young git, change treats all equally bulging out our pockets.

[/quote]

Young gits and old gits both change:

Young ones into old ones and old ones into dead ones.

5 July 2010

Impossible.

5 July 2010

[quote Los Angeles]Slainte![/quote]

Don't often see that word in print.

Making MG great again ? It'll never happen.Commercially viable maybe , great never.

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