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MG Rover and Proton confirm partner talk

Four years after rumours linked MG Rover with Proton, the manufacturers have confirmed they are talking to each other about future collaborations. Continuing cash worries at MG Rover have increased pressure on the management team to find a joint venture partner, with whom development costs on new models could be shared.

A terse statement from the two companies gave little away. “Phoe-nix Venture Holdings announces it has signed a letter of intent with Proton to explore the feasibility of a number of potential collaborative projects,” it read. “PVH and Proton will now engage in further discussions, and when any definitive agreement is reached a further announcement will be made.”

MG Rover's main priority is to establish a new mid-sized range to replace the 45. The launch date for such a product has recently been put back again – but now speculation will focus on the 45 replacement sharing a platform with Proton. The Malaysian carmaker launches a new Wira this summer – a stylish mid-size car that could provide MG Rover with the floorpan it needs to move ahead. Previously sources have suggested the car could be built on a shortened version of the 75's platform – although this would have proved an expensive option. The advantages of the Wira platform would include its low cost, and the fact that it is fully developed for launch.

Following this, MG Rover has to decide how it will replace the 25 supermini. Without a major engineering partner, few industry commentators gave the British manufacturer much hope of survival.

Proton owns British sportscar manufacturer Lotus, so any link-up with MG Rover could prompt some interesting collaborations between Lotus and MG. Proton also needs a major boost in the UK, where sales have been sliding in recent years.

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