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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
New owners reopen MG Rover plant
NAC chief executive Yu Jian Wei
Mr Yu promised Longbridge would remain part of the MG project
MG Rover's new Chinese owners have opened a new car production line at its Longbridge factory in Birmingham.

Three new MG TF sportscars were paraded about the site at a ceremony marking the official reopening by new owner Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC).

At the event, NAC added it had already invested 250m in MG, both in the UK and China, and pledged to invest more.

"We feel confident and resolute in restoring MG's former fame," said NAC chief executive Yu Jian Wei.

"MG has a glorious past and we are the inheritors of the brand. We are all striving to push forward our internationalisation strategy and accelerate innovation."

About 6,000 people lost their jobs when MG Rover went bust in 2005.

Future plans

NAC is now making cars in China, with production lines shipped out from the Longbridge site.

The firm plans to produce the MG TF sportscar at the Longbridge site.

At present, it employs 130 people of whom about 90% are local staff, according to Nanjing.

NANJING AUTO
Founded in Jiangsu in 1947
China's oldest carmaker
Makes cars, trucks, buses
Has 16,000 employees
Previous Fiat partnership

If sales go well and costs stay manageable, Nanjing said, that could increase to about 250 by the end of the year.

But the vehicles unveiled at the opening were merely assembled at Longbridge - they did not pass through the full production services.

Full-scale production is not set to begin until later in 2007 and NAC refused to be drawn on how many cars would be produced in its first year.

Some critics have doubts about how viable full-scale production will be.

However, NAC's chief vowed that the Longbridge plant would have an "irreplaceable role in the MG project".

Tuesday's ceremony was attended by a number of prominent Chinese businessmen, as well as representatives of MG enthusiasts' clubs.

No British government minister was present, but Solicitor General Mike O'Brien has handed over a letter of support from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Brand shift

In the last years of MG Rover, the Longbridge factory was the last British-owned mass car producer.

It was a major part of the local economy, underpinning some 18,000 jobs in the area and helping support companies such as parts suppliers, and the cafes that fed the local workers.

However, MG Rover ran into trouble as demand for its cars waned and competition from foreign rivals increased.

Employees at reopened Longbridge plant
Nanjing will increase the Longbridge workforce, if all goes well

NAC bought MG Rover in 2005, and said it planned to produce the cars in China to meet rising demand as the country's economy expanded.

Much of the machinery in Longbridge was shipped off in 400 containers to a factory in Pukou, 200 miles from Shanghai.

Most of the MG's components, from the gearbox to engine, will be manufactured in China.

Union representatives have welcomed the reopening of the Longbridge plant, and said that Nanjing had pledged to create 1,200 new jobs.

Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, said the reopening of Longbridge was a "day of celebration and optimism".


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