Nanjing Auto Corporation (NAC) is aiming to restart Longbridge car production at the beginning of 2007 according to Mr Wang Qiujing, VP at NAC, who is heading the NAC working group in charge of the company’s MG operations.

Mr Wang, speaking at a ‘free seminar’ in Chelmsford, Essex, stressed that NAC is looking for maximum support from all interested parties in Britain – including the unions, potential business partners and the government – and that ‘we will try our best’ to resume the production of cars at a streamlined Longbridge site at the beginning of 2007.

He also said that NAC was talking with several parties as it tries to find a suitable Longbridge partner with international experience, casting doubt on earlier suggestions that Nanjing would work on resuming MGTF production at Longbridge with GB Sports Car Co – a consortium led by Fraser Welford-Winton who formerly managed MG Rover’s powertrain division.

Outlining NAC’s ‘integrated China/UK strategy’ for MG, Mr Wang said that the purchase of MG Rover’s assets earlier this year would enrich NAC’s passenger car offerings (previously NAC’s sole car operation was a JV with Fiat Auto making the compact Palio and Siena models) taking it into medium, large and sports car segments.

He compared the Rover 75 favourably to the Audi A6 and noted that, with regard to the MGTF roadster, there are ‘no such sports models currently in China.’

Wang also maintained that the MG Rover assets purchase would improve NAC’s independent product development capability in the passenger car area.

Mr Wang said that the company wants to make models off its four acquired platforms (MGZR/R25, MGZS/R45, MGZT/R75 and MGTF) but he could not confirm which models were planned for the respective UK and Chinese production bases at this stage.

“Car production plans for Longbridge are not decided at this stage. We have conducted preliminary studies only,” Mr Wang told just-auto.

“The production resumption is from zero and we will have to undertake further market surveys. Maybe we would gradually increase production to 10,000 or 20,000 units, but we must see how the market for these products develops.

“But we want to produce a new generation of products in China and the UK,” Mr Wang added.

On the marketing front, NAC plans centre on using the MG brand (Rover brand rights currently reside with BMW and Shanghai Auto). “But we acquired some other brand names along with MG, including Austin for example, and we may use those in the future,” Mr Wang said.

Nanjing plans to make the engines it acquired from MG Rover’s powertrain operation in China and is shipping the tooling to Nanjing. Wang told the audience of auto industry executives that it is doing that because it is cheaper to manufacture engines and gearboxes in China and also necessary to avoid hefty import tariffs.

Mr Wang also said that NAC is looking to establish a low-cost high quality supply chain for automotive components from China to the UK and Europe, noting that the Jiangsu province (Nanjing is its main city) is already a leading parts manufacturer.

In addition, NAC planned to consolidate manufacturing activity at the massive Longbridge site and lower costs there.

The Longbridge plant closed in April after financially troubled MG Rover collapsed. The British carmaker stopped production after China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) dropped its plans to set up a joint venture with MG Rover. Nanjing purchased the remaining MG Rover’s assets in July for £53 million.

Dave Leggett