Shanghai Automotive's MG brand launches its new MG6 models here in the UK in May but it will over a year before the vehicles reach other European countries, after diesel engines become available.

An new diesel is currently under development with SAIC and MG sales and marketing director Guy Jones said this will not be available until the second half of next year which is when MG will start its push into other European markets.

He added: “I don’t see any point in launching into Europe without a diesel as that is by far the most popular engine, particularly in the MG6 size [Ford Focus] vehicle.”

The petrol MG6 hatchback - Fastback in MG speak - and saloon will be assembled at the old MG Rover plant close to Birmingham in the Midlands. The small MG3 will launch in the UK late next year but no decision has been made on local assembly.

Most of the once vast Longbridge site is now under redevlopment as a technology and industrial park and the remaining corner is home to MG Motor UK with 100 people working in manufacturing and sales and also the base of SAIC Group European Engineering Technical Centre, with 275 engineers, and the European Design Centre, home to 25 designers.

Much of the old MG Rover assembly plant remains and SAIC has spent GBP45m (US$72m) on new facilities there, including final assembly, although the paint shop remains mothballed. The MG6 will arrive at Longbridge from China ready painted.

A further GBP5m ($8m) was spent on a new engine test facility which will be commissioned by the summer.

Jones said it was important to get the message across that MG is no longer just a small carmaker. “SAIC is the biggest carmaker in China, the world’s largest car market and it is known for developing its own products.

“Including its joint venture partners in China, General Motors and Volkswagen, SAIC had sales of 3.58m vehicles last year and included within those were 160,000 MG and Roewe sales – Roewe is the domestic nameplate for China while MG will be the global brand.”

SAIC currently produces the Roewe 550, MG6, Roewe 350, the mild hybrid Roewe 750 – based on the old Rover 75 platform – and the MG3 will be launched in China later this year.

Jones added: “There is a lot going on in terms of low energy vehicles. SAIC has a joint venture with A123 in the US, one of the leading battery management companies and at the recent Shanghai Expo, SAIC laid on 1,000 low energy vehicles, including electric, hybrid and fuel cell. The company plans to market plug-in and full hybrid models from 2012.”

The Chinese, however, are keen to push the ‘Britishness’ of MG. Jones said: “We are designing and engineering cars in the UK for world markets and we want to quickly establish a high quality brand image. SAIC wants MG to be perceived as a British brand.

“We are not under any pressure from SAIC to build sales quickly, the Chinese want the emphasis to be on quality and British-build.”