After our first drive of the reborn MG TF, Autocar has learned that NAC MG has grand plans for the brand in the UK, including the launch of a four-model range. According to Gary Hagen, NAC MG's director of sales and marketing, Longbridge's future is assured - but the proposed deal to assemble cars in the USA has fallen through.
Speaking at the low-key launch of the MG TF LE500, Hagen confirmed that “making cars at Longbridge for the English-speaking market certainly makes sense for us.”
Currently only a handful of staff are building the relaunched TF roadster at a trickle, but Hagen confirms that plans to volume produce cars in the UK are well advanced.
He told Autocar that a range of four MGs is planned, and will be introduced during the next five years. The first will be a follow-on from the TF roadster, introduced late next year and targeting the Mazda MX-5. Before then, buyers will have a chance to buy a TF135 for £14,999; it will enter production when the limited-edition LE500 reaches the end of its run.
More importantly from the point of view of its future viability, Longbridge will receive an influx of engineers later this year when staff from the Shanghai Motor Technical Centre (previously known as Ricardo2010) in Leamington Spa will be moved there. This is the team that was primarily responsible for engineering the Chinese-market Roewe 750 and 550; the latter is set to form the basis of Longbridge’s next model.
“We’re currently planning a four-car range of MGs – first to arrive will be a mid-size saloon sharing its platform with the Roewe 550," confirmed Hagen. "The planned introduction for this car is late 2010 and looking at today’s marketplace, I see the main opposition as being the Mazda 6."
After that there will be a Focus-sized C-segment compact and a B-segment supermini. Hagen also confirmed that the MG3 SW (nee Rover Streetwise) and MG7, the Chinese version of the Rover 75-based MG ZT, will not be coming to Europe.
NAC plans to use Longbridge as its gateway into Europe, although the British domestic market will be the initial focus of the company’s marketing efforts. The chances of a return to the USA are slim, and the potential deal to assemble cars in Oklahoma won’t be happening.
Hagen said, “The USA isn’t on the short-term radar as an anticipated market for us but with the right product, it would be good to return there. However, we’re not ruling it out, and have been holding tentative conversations with other parties – but it is not a priority for us.”
Hagen is optimistic about MG’s rebirth, but is realistic enough to accept that Longbridge faces an uphill struggle. "We want it to work, and the Chinese passionately want to make it happen. They love the Britishness of MG and recognise its value," he said.