18 March 2011

Longbridge Is Back

Once the largest manufacturing plant in the world, Longbridge in Birmingham, England is making cars again. Chinese firm SAIC bought the rights to MG Rover cars in 2005 and started making the cars in China as MGs and Roewes. Now they are going to make MGs there, starting with the 1.8L MG 6 hatch back (pictured).

Now I would suggest that if you are thinking of buying a Chinese branded car, don't. Unless it comes free with a packet of Corn Flakes. However, SAIC has a design studio in the UK and the car apparently is much better made than Chinese branded cars, which are cheaply made death traps as a rule. Those who have tested it say it is very roomy, has excellent driving dynamics, well priced for its size (between Focus and Mondeo) and a looker in the metal. The main negatives are some trim and switchgear are ordinary, there is only the 1.8 petrol motor until a 1.9L diesel engine arrives in 2012. Also, CO2 emissions at 184g/km are not ground breaking.

The MG 6 are partly built and painted in China before being shipped to the UK in containers and delivered to Longbridge. Only around 100 workers will be required at this stage to attach the engines, transmissions and suspension systems. Another 300 staff are employed in the design studio, technical centre, and sales department.

SAIC have a modest goal of up to 2,500 sales a year and prices will be from £15,495 drive away. I think the dealer network is the only thing holding the sales to that figure, as this car would sell in much greater numbers if sold though a successful, established brand.

Summary: It is nice to see car production back at Longbridge, and it looks a very good first up effort.

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