It seems unlikely, but the former MG Rover plant at Longbridge is producing cars again.
For now it’s only the venerable MG TF, with production kicking off with a limited run of 500 cars that, apart from fresh paint, wheels and headlamps, look unchanged fro the TF that was died alongside MG Rover in 2005.
According to Nanjing, this is the first of several MGs that will be built at the much-compacted factory, and the next models promise to be substantially more youthful than the TF - possibly even brand new. Longbridge will not only be an MG production site for Nanjing but an engineering centre and a bridgehead into Europe. All great news if you’re an MG fan, and if you wanted to see at least something surviving from the collapse of MG Rover in 2005.
But you wonder how robust these plans are when you see the rather lame advertising for the reincarnated TF - the copywriters clearly struggling to find a way of announcing the return of a 13 year old product – and the website isn’t vastly more encouraging.
Given that the TF is now being advertised for sale you’d expect to be able to register for information, but the ‘enquire’ page of the site is apparently being updated. A pretty terrible way of dealing with potential sales leads.
Another page touts for engineering work from businesses who might want to use the plant’s rolling road, Japanese car importers and gas converters among those invited to rent the facility. All of which makes for somewhat forlorn reading if you know much of the history of this car plant, once the largest in Europe.
As someone who previously worked for new MG’s distant predecessor, and who hoped (with naïve desperation) that MG Rover would survive after BMW cut it loose, signs of life at Longbridge are great to see. But there can be few car industry watchers who won’t need an awful lot of convincing that this enterprise is going to survive this time around.
Yet Nanjing, which bought MG, is now owned by SAIC, China’s biggest car manufacturer and fellow buyers of the rump of the MG Rover business. This is an outfit with the muscle to make MG work, and from this faltering start we may yet be surprised. I’d love to see it happen.