SHANGHAI -- Some former MG Rover engineers have found a new home here.
Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. has hired 150 former Rover employees. Half a dozen now live here, including David Lindley, former head of new product concepts for MG Rover. He now is general manager of SAIC Motor Overseas R&D Center.
"I find Chinese engineers very easy to work with," says the 42-year-old Englishman. "It's much like working in the U.K."
Development of SAIC's new cars - which currently are based on MG Rover designs - begins in the United Kingdom and finishes up in China. It is one way SAIC is using foreign expertise to train Chinese talent as it pursues its goal of becoming a global automaker.
SAIC has used major joint ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen AG to build cars for China - and to gain expertise. The Rover efforts show its determination to develop and sell its own brands.
Lindley helped develop the Rover 75 platform. When MG Rover collapsed in 2005, he began working for SAIC.
SAIC aims to begin exporting a model of its own brand - it hasn't decided on a badge name yet - to Europe in 2007, with volume hitting 50,000 in three years.
U.S. exports also are a long-term goal.
Lindley is key to that effort. He spends about 25 percent of his time in Shanghai working with engineers at the Shanghai Automotive Engineering Academy. The academy employs 600 engineers, many with experience working at Shanghai General Motors or Shanghai Volkswagen, SAIC's car manufacturing joint ventures. The academy also has lured back Chinese nationals with years of experience with Western auto manufacturers and suppliers.
Lindley spends the rest of his time in Leamington Spa, England, at the SAIC Motor Overseas R&D Center, which goes by the name of Ricardo2010. One hundred and fifty former MG Rover engineers work there. Groups of Chinese engineers rotate through to learn from the foreign engineers.
"The role of (SAIC's) U.K. r&d center is to lead the initial phases of new development programs," Lindley says.
The SAIC center is on the grounds of engine design and development company Ricardo PLC's Midlands Tech Center. SAIC is a Ricardo client, and the SAIC engineers can use Ricardo resources when they need to.
When a product concept is fully developed, the job passes to the Shanghai Automotive Engineering Academy in China.
"There is an enormous amount of engineering capacity in SAIC today," Lindley says.
Meeting global standards
In the short term, SAIC aims to build up a team of more than 1,000 engineers in Shanghai. In 2015, the goal is 4,000.
The company will need all the engineering talent it can get. SAIC aims to introduce five product lines in the next four years, all fully compliant with European Union crash and safety standards.
The first model, a large sedan based on the Rover 75, is due to begin production in late 2006. Engineers in China are finishing up the model now.
You may e-mail Alysha Webb at [email protected]