Cort confirms that he has been in discussions with both Nanjing and what he describes as a “top 500 world company” regarding plans for future car production at Longbridge.
He tells AM-online: “They are clearly serious, but need some help. We talked about the dealer network and about putting a strategy together. I was shown designs for future models and redesigns of previously produced models. They seemed pleasant, humble gentlemen and very keen to listen and take advice.”
Despite Nanjing signing a 33-year lease for 105 acres of Longbridge with its owners St Modwen Properties, doubts over the Chinese car maker’s long term commitment remain due to the inclusion of a six-month break clause in the lease.
Cort says that at present the entire 412 acres of the Longbridge site is serviced by just one source of power, water, and electricity, insufficient for the proposed new uses for the site.
“It was explained to me that it would take six months to arrange the utilities to the site and that was what had informed the six month break clause,” he says.
However, Nanjing executives, during a series of interviews at last month’s press announcement, suggested that unless they find the funds – thought to be about £100m – to restart production, they would invoke the six-month clause. They have called for dealers and suppliers to help.
Cort is positive about the situation as it stands, but points out that plans are in their infancy. “The meeting was extremely positive, but who knows what the outcome will be,” he adds.
St Modwen acquired 412 acres of the Longbridge site in two deals in 2003 and 2004 for £57.5m and leased it back to MG Rover. Besides the 105 acres let to Nanjing, 181 acres are earmarked for mixed use development.