Senior officials of Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation (NAC) today (12 July) confirmed  the revival of the historic MG brand as well as plans to assemble a new coupe model in Oklahoma, following the formation of MG Motors North America, Inc.

The official ceremony followed an earlier announcement issued through the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce which said MG Motors North America plans to locate its headquarters in the city with assembly and distribution in Ardmore, about 100 miles south. The official announcement added that the US office would handle sales, marketing and distribution outside of Asia in North America, Europe and the UK.

Research and development will be about 20 miles from the city centre, at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

Nanjing’s comments at the launch event in the US suggest it sees itself following other better known automakers’ efforts to keep going such famous English brands as Aston Martin (Ford), Bentley (Volkswagen) and Mini (BMW).

The Chinese have recruited “seasoned American auto executive” Duke Hale as president and chief executive officer tasked with reviving MG in the UK and Europe and following up with a re-launch – after 26 years or so – in North America.

Having begun his career with Volvo in sales and then moving to Mazda in sales and aftermarket roles, Hale most recently headed Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering in the US, having moved there from the post of COO at American Isuzu

“The prospect of using 25 years of executive experience… to restore MG to the automotive landscape is an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down,” said Hale.

“Now that we’ve finalised the important financial, manufacturing and product planning details of this new venture, I’m well along in recruiting a team of experienced auto industry executives to join me.  A key ingredient in that effort has been to find the right home to build a completely new model for a global automotive enterprise.  I’m confident that Oklahoma fits that description perfectly.”

Joining Hale at the announcement ceremony were two senior executives from NAC – president Yu Jianwei and vice-president Wang Hong Biao.

“Nanjing Motors is fully committed to the restoration of the MG brand to markets around the world. This will be the key component of our Nanjing’s effort to join leading automakers in the manufacture and sale of high quality, high character automobiles,” said Yu Jianwei.

“As we finalise the installation of MG assembly lines in our new Nanjing plant, we are pleased to confirm plans to build [assemble] the TF roadster once again in Longbridge, UK and the new TF coupe at a completely new facility in Ardmore.”

Just-auto understands the coupe was designed under MG Rover’s previous owners but the firm went bust in April last year before it could be put into production.

Yu Jianwei said more details would be announced at a press conference on 17 July, ahead of the London motor show.

Joining NAC in the project are Oklahoma Sovereign Development, Davis Capital, the state of Oklahoma, the city of Oklahoma City and the city of Ardmore.  The collective capital investment pledged by these parties exceeds $US2bn, including NAC’s new MG plant in China, re-starting roadster assembly roadster at Longbridge and building an assembly plant and parts distribution center in Ardmore.

Hale was quoted earlier on Wednesday as describing the state’s incentive package as “pretty darn aggressive”. Reports said it is offering Nanjing tax breaks for job creation and a new business development fund. 

While final details are yet to come, MG Motors plans initially to sell a full range of sports cars and sedans .  The three sedans will be built at Nanjing’s main manufacturing facilities in China, giving it three final assembly sites wordwide.

Sources close to the company told just-auto on Wednesday that all manufacturing will be done in China with the UK and US operations simply being assembly facilities. The company has been widely reported as having ‘lifted and shifted’ all production equipment worth having from Longbridge to China over the last year and the Chinese plant will be both a finished vehicle export base and a source of CKD kits for assembly elsewhere.

British newspapers have recently snatched photos of a near-empty Longbridge plant and the news from the US today, understandably, has caused “surprise and concern” at a key UK auto workers union.

Transport and General Workers Union national secretary for the car industry Dave Osborne said: “There has been no consultation with us about this. There have been some concerns about Nanjing revising its plans downwards in respect of Longbridge. Taking these together the T&G is calling for an urgent meeting with the company to find out exactly what they are now planning for car making in the UK.”

Having some assembly in the US, likely to be the key MG market, will help Nanjing avoid currency rate swings.

MG Motors officials said about 550 jobs will be created in Oklahoma, including headquarters operations, assembly operations, parts and distribution operations and research and development.

The company expects to start construction of the Ardmore assembly facility early in 2007 with production to start by the third quarter of 2008.

“We looked at a lot of different locations around the country, but none could equal the overall appeal of Oklahoma,” Hale said.

“Oklahoma also provides an ideal geographic location to support our distribution efforts for the North American market and for exporting products abroad.”

Governor Brad Henry said MG’s announcement is great news for his state where General Motors recently closed the Oklahoma City plant that produced sport utility vehicles and provided jobs for 2,200 blue-collar and 200 white-collar staff.

Henry said: “This is a major investment in Oklahoma that will mean hundreds of good-paying jobs.”

Amy Polonchek, interim executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce said the state’s[unspecified] competitive incentive package played a critical role in bringing MG Motors to Oklahoma.