The brand’s relaunch under new owner Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) has been beset by delays. It had appointed 50 dealers in the UK last summer ready for a scheduled launch of the MG TF in September 2007.
Quality issues with the Chinese-made components led that target to slip to February 2008. But after that date passed, Longbridge assembly plant executives would not tell AM whether they expect to have cars available at all this year.
And it has emerged that none of the 50 dealers have franchise contracts in place, although a few have begun marketing and taking deposits; MG has only issued each with a memorandum of understanding.
Stephen Cox, NAC-MG UK sales and franchising manager, insisted there was no negativity in the network.
He said: “There’s complete support. They don’t want a car that’s not right, and wouldn’t sell a car that’s not right. If that means delaying it, that’s what we will do.”
Considering the lack of production activity at Longbridge, industry observers have questioned what is actually going on behind the front gate and whether NAC has been feeding the public with false promises of significant production.
In 2006 the company said the plant would have annual capacity for 15,000 units. It also talked of introducing an MG 7 saloon based on the Rover 75, still an ambition of NAG parent Shanghai Automotive.
Cox said work completed so far included logistical planning, parts accumulation and engineering. Around 45 “engineering vehicles” have been assembled since May 2007, when NAC held a much-hyped re-opening of Longbridge.
The site now employs 140 people in sales and marketing, security, engineering, production and logistics.
When asked what the staff were doing, Cox said: “Training and looking at methods of production and process.”
Cox added that he did not believe the car’s aged design would mar the relaunch. It’s essentially the MGF from 1995 and may need a low price to compete against the more modern Mazda MX-5, which starts at £15,730.
Cox refutes this suggestion, adding that the price is still under debate. “The market for two-seater sports cas is driven by people with high disposable income. They don’t need a two-seater, they want one,” he said.
Cox plans to re-start dealer recruitment when MG is finally relaunched. He wants a full network of 120 owner-driver dealers.