7 October 2004

MG Rover’s agreement with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) looks set to herald a renewal of the company’s entire model range, after product engineering director Rob Oldaker revealed provisional plans that would take the alliance up to at least 2010.

The deal is awaiting official approval from the Chinese government, which is expected by the end of the year. The plans, however, suggest a long-term partnership beyond the RD/X60 (right), the Rover 45/MG ZS replacement that will kick off the co-operation between the two companies. Hold-ups mean the car, scheduled for launch around now, is unlikely to appear until at least the latter part of 2006. This has given SAIC a chance to influence the styling, as well as instigating other variants such as a saloon, important to the Chinese market.

The immediate challenge for MG Rover is keeping afloat until the vital new models arrive. Over the first eight months of this year sales were more than 15 per cent down on the same period in 2003, the worst performance from a mainstream manufacturer. August saw a 36.6 per cent fall on August 2003, a result likely to be repeated in the boom sales month of September.

Meanwhile, there are reports of problems between MG Rover and Tata, the Indian company that builds the poorly-received CityRover. The two will meet later this month to try to repair what is said to be an increasingly fragile partnership.

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