BEIJING - Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. will begin production of a sedan based on the Rover 75 lower-premium model in China in late 2006, a Shanghai Automotive manager says.
The sedan is likely to be sold as an SAIC-badged car, a first for the government-run carmaker. SAIC currently builds cars for Volkswagen and General Motors in separate joint ventures.
A final decision has not been made on the manufacturing site for the sedan, the SAIC manager says.
Local media reports say the car will be built at a plant owned by Nanjing Auto Group, a small manufacturer with excess capacity at its factory in the Jiangsu province. SAIC says it bought the intellectual property rights to the Rover 75 and 25 models, as well as 10 MG Rover engine designs, before MG Rover went into administration in April.
Some work already has begun on adapting the Rover 75 to China, say sources familiar with the project.
Major work on the project should begin in October, the SAIC official says.
Ex-MG Rover staff to help
Former MG Rover researchers will help with the engineering changes. At SAIC's request, Ricardo of West Sussex, England, has hired dozens of former MG Rover researchers to work on SAIC projects.
Before MG Rover collapsed, the British carmaker had about 300 researchers at its Longbridge plant, said William Baldwin-Charles, former corporate affairs manager at MG Rover.
At SAIC's request, the former MG Rover employees will work at Ricardo offices in England.
It also is likely that teams from the UK engineering specialist will travel to Shanghai to work with SAIC engineers, sources from the companies involved say.
The start of major work on adapting the Rover model to the Chinese market has been delayed by three months as MG Rover goes through administration in the UK.