At first, the idea of a Chinese government-controlled company building MG sports cars in Oklahoma seems absurd.
Yet that's what Nanjing Automobile Group says it will do as part of a grand, global enterprise that's backed by $2 billion in capital. The plan is to build sedans in China; roadsters at MG's ancestral home in Longbridge, England; and coupes in Ardmore, Okla.
What could they be thinking?
Longbridge makes sense because, apparently, Nanjing plans to use manual labor and the traditional British bash-it-'til-it-fits manufacturing process that Henry Ford overcame nearly a century ago.
And, of course, being a Chinese company, Nanjing would need to build some people's cars in the home market.
Maybe "Sooner" or "Okie" has some important meaning in Mandarin.
Coincidentally, putting the American factory right smack dab in the middle of flyover land would mean busybody journalists can't just stop by to snoop.
Don't forget that Oklahoma is near Nebraska.
Hey, 32 years ago, Kawasaki decided to build motorcycles in Lincoln, Neb., and became the first foreign vehicle manufacturer in the modern era to open a factory in the United States.
And of course there are the grants and other financial incentives that Oklahoma will heap on Nanjing's plate.
Heck, I guess there are millions of swell reasons a Chinese government-controlled company might want to build MG sports cars in Oklahoma.
But what were the folks at the state's development agency thinking? Are they that desperate for a car plant now that General Motors has abandoned its factory in Oklahoma City?
They must know there have been other similar sports car projects that failed.
But maybe if Oklahoma writes a better deal, this one will turn out better than Malcolm Bricklin's factory in New Brunswick and John DeLorean's venture in Northern Ireland, both of which were fueled by other people's capital.
Still, I have this haunting image of the aid proposal landing on some big shot's desk at the Capitol in Oklahoma City with the M and the G transposed.
Where do I sign?
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]