Stowe has been based in Nanjing with his family for the past 16 months after 12 years with Rover at Longbridge.
He is convinced that MG’s ‘return home’ is fundamental to the future of the brand both in Europe as well as China.
“In China cars are generally bought by the middle class and those people tend to choose European brands over domestic Chinese cars. We are selling a very British brand and heritage and the only way to do this is to have a foothold in Europe – Longbridge is fundamental to that.”
As well as assembly, Longbridge will also act as a research and development centre, engineering and testing base as well as handling recruitment, purchasing, logistics, sales & marketing issue for the UK, Europe and China.
In terms of actual MG production Stowe said Longbridge would not simply be assembling kits from China.
“Longbridge will be carrying out the same operations as it always has, and the same as any other assembly operation. The difference is that some of the parts now come from 6,000 miles away rather than just down the road while we also have suppliers based in Germany, Italy, France and Japan.”
Stowe's job now is to ensure quality is spot-on in Nanjing so that it can then be transferred back to the UK.
He said: “That has been my biggest challenge. The Chinese have recognized that quality is the weak link in the chain and the reason why they appointed western quality directors for the operations in Nanjing and Longbridge.
“The indigenous suppliers in China are keen to become internationally recognized and we are working with them to improve quality. However, some 70% of suppliers to Nanjing are European, North American or Japanese.”
The biggest challenge to Stowe over the past 16 months has been establishing a new plant in Nanjing. He added: “That has involved finding suppliers for 3,500 parts for the car as well as building an 800,000sq ft facility and moving 20,000 tons of equipment from the UK.
“On top of that we have had to establish IT equipment to handle ordering, delivery and warranty systems – it’s been an interesting few months.”
Interesting, too, for his wife and two children, aged four and nine. “They have all settled in well and the kids are learning Mandarin very quickly – more so than I am. My knowledge is still so-so, but I can order a beer and a taxi.”