Officially a ‘good news’ day yesterday, when I went to Longbridge to attend the official opening of MG’s new Design Studio.
Part of a facility that now fills the buildings once used by Rover’s quality control department and its sales and marketing division, the studio will employ up to 25 people. It’s part of almost £5m that’s being invested in the site by owner SAIC this year.
Chief designer Anthony Williams-Kenny is probably shuffling back all sorts of clay models into their floorspace, now that the journos have gone; I expect the mid-size MG hatchback and the production version of the Zero concept had to be moved aside to make room for us all.
For MG, though, the day was about more than just the studio; it was about disproving the theory that Longbridge has become a ghost site occupied by a few cleaners, the odd security guard and a couple of blokes tending to an RV8 while they wait for their pension to kick in.
And now I can understand their frustration. Sure, the piles of rubble and open space where there used to be factory are pretty disconcerting. And whoever chose the BMW-esque chrome lettering for the new facility had a perverse sense of humour.
But at one key moment during our tour, we entered a room which contained around 150 desks, all occupied by engineers with CAD screens aglow. And to a man, the hacks were genuinely, pleasantly surprised. Throw in a neat workshop, full of various test hacks and mules, and you’ve got a modest facility that appears to be keeping itself busy.
There’s still an enormous way to go; we were kept well away from the production lines, and the paint shop remains “mothballed”. But things are happening at Longbridge. It seems that SAIC is aware of the talent that’s available in the UK, and is keen to harness it.