LONGBRIDGE, UK -- MG Rover is discussing participation in the 2005 replacement of the lower-medium Rover 45 with automakers in China and India.
Rob Oldaker, product development chief, said MG Rover is delaying final approval of the car's sheet-metal design in case the British automaker can find a partner for the program.
Oldaker said MG Rover is telling suppliers it is difficult to "say the program was live because we were near to putting together a deal with a potential partner. There are potential Chinese partners."
Oldaker declined to name the potential Chinese partners. And he refused to rule out Indian automaker Tata. Tata has already agreed to ship 45,000 India-built CityRover superminis to Europe this year to give MG Rover an entry-level model.
Chinese press reports link MG Rover to two Chinese automakers, privately owned Geely Group and state-owned Chery Automobile Co. Chinese sources say Geely seems most likely.
Crucial to hopes for profitability, the Rover 45 replacement is more than a year late because MG Rover engineering partner TWR declared bankruptcy and folded last year. Oldaker said the car is now due in the second half of 2005.
CEO Kevin Howe said MG Rover is considering redesigning the existing Rover 25 platform using primarily in-house engineering resources instead of using an all-new design.
The company will facelift its entire lineup this year, starting with the Rover 75 and MG ZT this spring.
Alysha Webb contributed