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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 16:34 GMT
UK group wants sporty Smart car
Daimler's Smart car has failed to make money since its launch
A British consortium is in talks with DaimlerChrysler's struggling Smart brand about buying a licence to produce its two-seat sports car.

It is thought the group wants to market the car under the iconic MG brand now owned by China's Nanjing Automobile.

Newspaper reports last week claimed the Kimber consortium would move production to Coventry, away from MG's home at Longbridge in the West Midlands.

But Nanjing has since said that it is unlikely to sell the brand.

"Like a marriage"

The 'Project Kimber' consortium, which is led by businessman David James, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Smart and hopes to sign a contract in the next few months.

The deal would give the group the licence to redesign, produce and sell the former Smart roadster and roadster coupe models.

The loss making DaimlerChrysler subsidiary announced last year that it was ceasing production of the two models as part of a restructuring plan.

As well as a site in Coventry, Kimber is also looking at assembly sites in South Wales and eastern Germany.

The consortium made an unsuccessful bid for the MG Rover group after Britain's last volume carmaker collapsed last year.

It lost out to the Chinese group, which bought the Rover's assets for about 50m ($86m).

Earlier this month, Nanjing Automobile vice-president Wang Hongbiao said the company was hopeful of restarting MG production at Longbridge.

NAC's commitment to the site was "like a marriage", he said.

"We have never considered production anywhere else but Longbridge."

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