26 May 2005

Autocar has been told that a Honda delegation from Japan paid a visit to part of the closed Longbridge factory in mid-May. The delegation is said to have been accompanied by senior trade union officials.

Although there is no chance of Honda rescuing the defunct MG Rover operation, it is possible that Honda might have an interest in the MG brand itself. Despite years of trying, Honda has never had great success selling sports cars under its own name. Neither the NSX supercar or the S2000 roadster made a breakthrough in global markets. Indeed, the NSX is said to have been inspired by the aluminium, mid-engined V6 Austin-Rover-built MG EX-E concept of 1986.

The same source revealed that MGR’s paint shop is under orders to remain on standby by ‘keeping the paint fresh’, though there’s no clue so far as to why.

Meanwhile, the German autopress is awash with rumours that MGR’s erstwhile partner, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, is set to move in on Fiat Auto. Despite strong denials from Fiat, reports suggest that SAIC, possibly in tandem with other Chinese car makers, is set to try to take a stake in the Italian company this autumn. Fiat Auto has to repay a £2bn loan to six banks by this September, or it will be converted into shares, further diluting Fiat’s autonomy. It’s being suggested that Chinese makers could swoop, and offer to inject the £2bn in exchange for a significant stake in Fiat Auto.

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