Nanjing Automobile Group on Tuesday rolled out its first Chinese-built MG sports cars and saloons.

A racing green MG TF two-seater convertible, a copy of the popular original British model, was unveiled at a plant in the eastern city of Nanjing, Reuters reported.

Nanjing Auto, a medium-sized car maker that began life as a military garage in 1947, will use the MG marque founded in the 1920s to target China’s fast-growing ranks of wealthy buyers, the report said.

“We are keeping the original British flavour,” Zhang Xin, general manager of the Nanjing subsidiary making the cars, told Reuters, adding: “But in the future, the major market for MG will be in China.”

Two models of MG 7 series saloon, based on the original Rover 75-based MG ZF model, were also revealed to a 1,000 strong audience of Chinese government officials and global media, the news agency said. Rival SAIC has just started production of an updated Rover 75, re-named Roewe 750.

MG cars built in the Chinese plant and the former MG Rover plant at Longbridge in the English Midlands, which Nanjing Auto plans to restart in May, will also be sold in Europe, Reuters noted, adding that Nanjing has signed a letter of intent to make MG cars in the US state of Oklahoma, in a project that could involve $US2bn (GBP1bn) of state, local government and private investment. Zhang reportedly said talks were ongoing and an announcement would be made once a final decision had been reached.

Priced at between 180,000 yuan and 400,000 yuan (GBP11,800 to GNP26,400), the MG cars will be beyond the reach of most Chinese, costing well over two years’ salary, the news agency said.

But Zhang reportedly said incomes in China were rising so fast that Nanjing Auto reckoned it could break even on the MG project in little more than a year, and hoped for global sales of 200,000 MG-brand cars annually after five years.

Nanjing Auto surprised the industry when it outbid China’s biggest car maker, SAIC Motor Corp., to win the MG brand in 2005, paying GBP53m for the assets of MG Rover after the British firm collapsed with debts of GBP1.4bn, Reuters added.

Zhang reportedly said the MG project would need 2-3 billion yuan to boost capacity over the next several years.

Reuters noted that Chinese media reports have said Nanjing Auto was turning to the government for financial assistance but Zhang reportedly said the MG manufacturing subsidiary was looking for strategic investors.

“We have been in talks with several potential partners, including funds, in North America and Europe and could sell as much as 50%,” he told the news agency.