02 July 2010

SAIC Production In The UK

To know of how SAIC's car production plans for the UK came about, a little history:
SAIC is a massive car producer in China, that makes GM and VW cars as a joint venture operation. It is the largest car maker in China. It bought rights to certain Rover models in 2005. However, tiny Nanjing Auto outbid SAIC for the MG Rover Group itself. Nanjing planned to build cars based on the MG ZT sedan, and MG TF convertible sports cars. Plans for UK production were announced too. In reality, Nanjing would struggle to achieve these goals, so with coaxing by Chinese authorities, it merged with, or perhaps was absorbed into, SAIC in 2007. 250 staff were initially employed in the UK, and production of the limited edition MG TF LE500 sports car commenced in August, 2008. The MG brand is owned by SAIC, but the name Rover is not, therefore the name Roewe was chosen for cars it builds based on the Rover marque. The name Roewe is pronounced as 'rone-way' in English.

The name first appeared on SAIC's version of the Rover 75 in 2006 - called Roewe 750 - and is built in China. In 2008, its UK-based design and engineering center developed the Roewe 550, based on the underpinnings of the old 75 platform. Now, the same team has created the Roewe 350 – this time a clean sheet design. From 2007 SAIC started building the MGF sports car and MG7 (the MG7 based on the Rover ZT). In 2008 came the MG3 (nee Rover 25 Streetwise) and from 2010 the MG6 Hatchback (based on the Rover 75/MGZT platform).

According to the BBC, a £5m design studio and technical centre for MG models has just opened at the former Longbridge site in Birmingham. The MG Motor UK complex will become the company's global design headquarters and employ 300 designers and engineers. The MG6 fastback will be built in the UK later in 2010 and it will be followed by a saloon version next year.

What I like is the ongoing commitment by SAIC to produce vehicles at the spiritual home of the cars they now make in China, at Longbridge. The designs are contemporary and they will sell with a strong dealer network, if priced right. There is much work to be done to make the Roewe a success in export markets such as the UK and Europe, but SAIC are determined and who would bet against them?

The bottom line: Could you see a SAIC Roewe or MG in your garage?

Pic at top: Roewe 750 production, China. Below MG6 destined for UK production soon.

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