A new MG sports car remains in the firm’s future product plans – and it could be built at the firm’s iconic Longbridge site.

However, such a car is unlikely to make production for at least five years, and will follow behind the launch of new mass market products such as a Nissan Qashqai rival, which was previewed at the Shanghai motor show as Concept CS, and an overtly stylised small SUV in the mould of the Nissan Juke.

“We need a range of volume products before a sports car can happen,” said MG UK’s head of sales and marketing Guy Jones. “What we can say today is that it is in the product plan, and we hope it will happen, but before we do that we need a range of mainstream, volume-selling products. A new sports car would be iconic and it is something we would like to do, but only when the time is right.”

Jones added that there had been pressure from some quarters of the Chinese SAIC-owned firm to push its relaunch with a sports car already, but ultimately it had resisted the temptation.

“It would have guaranteed headlines, but it would have served to confirm MG’s reputation as a maker of small, niche, affordable sports cars and that’s not where the brand is heading,” he said. “We have global ambitions built around mainstream products, which is why the sports car must come when the time is right. By not having it now we have an opportunity to spread our line-up further.”

In the meantime, company insiders are already referring to the Juke rival, mooted for a 2017 launch in Europe and based on the MG Icon concept, as a modern interpretation of what the MGB stood for when it was launched. “The world has moved on, and a small but fun and stylish SUV would meet the criteria set by the MGB for bringing something to market in a modern British style, that is fun to own and drive and affordable for a wide range of people.”

The prospect of large-scale manufacturing returning to Longbridge was highlighted by SAIC’s global corporate communications director Zhu Xiangjun, who told Autocar: “MG in the UK is a key part of our long-term strategy – we are not focused on short-term sales. We know we must keep Longbridge at the centre of our global expansion plans. That means we will build up Longbridge and be ready to bring the lines back to life when we have enough demand to build cars there.”

Despite selling off much of its Longbridge site, MG continues to own a production line and paint shop. Despite both being mothballed for eight years now, insiders insist they have been maintained and are sufficiently modern to be pressed in to action again.