Just as our Chinese colleagues were getting their first taste of the new MG6, I was spearing up the M40 on my way to my first visit to Longbridge for nearly a decade.
Ironically, my last visit was to see the results of MG’s rebirth at the hands of the Phoenix Four. We were shown the MG R, S and T which were all whizzed up versions of the rather more prosaic Rover products.
But with MG’s new owners SAIC now in charge of Longbridge I didn’t know what to expect.
Admittedly the place still feels like a shadow of its former self – after all no cars are currently being produced here apart from a handful of MG TFs. But talking to the men now running the company there’s a huge sense of optimism that Longbridge’s glory days are far from over.
European versions of the new MG6 saloon will be rolling off of newly built Longbridge lines by the end of the year and there are more models in the pipeline.
The thing that really gives me hope though is that the West Midlands plant is now SAIC’s worldwide R&D centre and a new design HQ is just about to be opened.
That means Brits will be designing and engineering cars for a company that makes close to three million cars a year. And, let’s face it, with the Chinese car market set to expand further that number is likely to get a lot bigger.
In other words even if Europeans don’t take to the reengineered MG6 saloon, there could well be plenty of life in Longbridge for some time to come.