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Brilliance offers MPV to MG Rover

MG Rover is considering rebadging China Brilliance's medium sector Zhonghua car and selling it in the UK, despite speculation over the future of the two groups' alliance.

The car, which goes into production in China later this year, will be available as a four-door saloon. An MPV version will be built on the same platform.

While the saloon is unlikely to appeal to the company - it already has the Rover 75 - adopting a model in the rapidly expanding MPV sector would fill a gap in its range. “We have the rights to these two cars, but we need to assess whether they are a viable proposition for Rover,” says a spokesman for the company. “It would be more long-term.”

MG Rover has lambasted “wholly unsubstantiated” press reports in China and the UK that claim its deal with China Brilliance is under threat due to a possible change in ownership at the company. A provincial government in China is thought to be preparing a takeover, ousting the chairman in the process, in return for giving approval for BMW to set up a joint venture plant in the region. China Brilliance executives insists this is not the case.

MG Rover says the two companies are making rapid progress on a number of initiatives. “There has already been significant investment in developing two model ranges - a small car and a medium-sized replacement for the 45,” says a spokesman. “These will be built at Longbridge and in China.”

China Brilliance has started setting up manufacturing facilities, and putting the infrastructure in place, ready to sell MG Rover cars in its home market. The target launch is 2004, but this might be brought forward. The two companies are also developing a complete range of engines, from a 1.1-litre petrol to a large diesel unit, which are likely to be produced in China and at MG's Longbridge plant.

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