Stephen Cox, NAC UK sales/franchise manager, said he didn’t want dealers to sign when the company had no product to sell.
“We didn’t want to sign up dealers before we had a definite date for the start of production,” said Cox.
“As it stands we could probably sign up 10 dealers but we want to sign them all up together, otherwise it looks inequitable.”
Cox had previously planned to appoint the first five dealers by the end of May. NAC is planning on holding a signing ceremony for the dealers as this is traditional in China.
“Dealers will get a letter of intention from us before all this takes place,” said Cox. “We are close to sending these out, it will probably be in the next fortnight.”
Cox, who remains tight-lipped about dealers’ identities, says NAC is still working around autumn availability for the re-born MGTF roadster. So far NAC has sent out 96 franchise information packs, with 44 applications returned. These are currently being assessed.
“We’re continuing to focus on finding the right dealers. We don’t mind having open points,” he added.
Richard Cort, managing director of Corts Ltd and former MG Rover dealer council chairman, says that he may consider signing up for the franchise himself in the future.
“It’s a great product, but first they need to show what their pricing, margins, volumes, marketing strategy, showroom requirements and plans for the future are. How many will be built? Are the cars Euro IV complaint?”
“Customers will be sceptical about investing in what is a new brand. They will want to know what’s behind it.”
Industry observer Michael Wynn-Williams of AutoCognition believes that the relaunched MGTF will need to be priced at least £2,000 below its core rival Mazda MX-5 if it is to have any chance of successfully re-entering the market.
He said: “Not only is the car little changed from the original model that was launched six years ago but it is now in competition with an MX-5 that is barely two years old. Even then, the TF will not appear until late summer, just when most sports cars are returning from their summer fun for hibernation in a warm garage.”
Wynn-Williams described NAC’s investment in making Longbridge its global research and development centre as a “vote of confidence in the UK’s engineering capabilities”.
He added: “Instead of simply adapting Chinese designs to suit local European tastes the Longbridge facility will have the ability to design and develop new models, working in an equal partnership with Nanjing. This kind of global vertical structure can utilise the unique capabilities of both sides and so provide a solid foundation for the long-term future of NAC, with Longbridge as the source of R&D excellence.”