Nanjing Automobile Group of China is planning to revive one of Great Britain's historic brands -- MG -- and build cars at a plant in Oklahoma.
In a press release, Nanjing said the reborn version of MG Inc. will have three production sites. A plant in Ardmore, Okla., will assemble a redesigned TF coupe. MG's shuttered factory in Longbridge, England, which closed when MG Rover Group collapsed in 2005, will build the TF roadster. And Nanjing plants in China will build three sedans.
Cars likely will go on sale in the United States in May or June of 2008, MG says.
The company said it expects to begin construction of the Oklahoma plant in early 2007 and start production by the third quarter of 2008.
MG expects the plant to produce 12,000 to 16,000 units a year. About 60 percent of the output would be for North America and 40 percent for Europe. The plant expects to use mostly manual labor, similar to how Lotuses are assembled.
Nanjing is a small state-owned commercial-truck manufacturer that does not assemble its own cars in China.
Its car-making operations amount to a joint-venture with Fiat Auto S.p.A. that assembled just 35,832 cars in 2005. Management is very ambitious, but the large and complex MG project will be a severe test. Several industry sources who have visited Nanjing describe the working style as "making it up as they go along."
Some Nanjing suppliers are harsher in their assessment. "They are very unorganized," says an executive at a Nanjing supplier who has had meetings canceled.
Nanjing bought MG Rover in 2005 for about $97.3 million at the current exchange rate. The iconic British automaker collapsed in April of that year. MG's origins date to 1923, and it sold cars in the United States from 1947 to 1980.