The sale of the UK’s last major British manufacturer in 2005 gave Nanjing the MG brand name and the remnants of the Longbridge production facility, while SAIC took the intellectual property rights to the Rover 75 and 25 and the engine-making division.
Ford retained the Rover name which came as part of the deal when it bought Land Rover.
However, the Rover name could soon be in the hands of Tata Motors if its bid for the Land Rover and Jaguar brands succeeds.
SAIC sells a version of the 75, called the 750, under the name ‘Roewe’ in China. To add to the confusion, Nanjing has been developing a 75/MG ZT-based car it calls MG7, as well as the new TF.
The merger of Nanjing into SAIC will solve the two companies’ ongoing copyright and technical disputes.
Chen Hong, SAIC Motor president, said the Longbridge facility would serve as a platform for his company to tap foreign markets with the MG brand.
Funds from SAIC will help launch Nanjing’s much delayed TF in the UK and Europe. It was due to go on sale late last year but dealers are still waiting for deliveries.
David Wood, general manager for Luffield Cars which has signed up for the MG franchise, said: “There’s a lot going on in the background but we haven’t had much info fed through to us yet.
“I think the merger is good news for us and UK dealers. SAIC will add strength and resource to NAC.”
Wood expects the first MG TF demonstrators to arrive at his Loughborough dealership at the end of February. “It’s crucial for the product to be right. There can’t be quality issues,” he said. Luffield has 800 MG prospects on its database and has already held a special viewing of the new TF with seven customers. Prices are still to be confirmed.
“I’m certain the MG7 will also come to the UK; it’s one of the better prospects for the UK and it’s based on a good platform,” Wood added.
He believes that SAIC will use the MG brand as a global product and will keep the ex-Rover models for domestic markets.
However, if SAIC wanted to pair up the new MG and Rover franchises in the UK again, Wood said he would consider it.
“If the two markets could be differentiated from one another, then we would consider taking on the Rover models,” he added.
NAC UK has confirmed that it intends to bring three more MG models over to the UK over the next five years. The MG3 small hatchback (Rover 25 equivalent), MG5 lower medium car (Rover 45 equivalent) and MG7 saloon (Rover 75 equivalent) could all make their way to the UK and could all be built at Longbridge.