- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Nanjing Automobile, the Chinese carmaker that bought MG Rover two years ago, yesterday began production of MG model sports cars, seeking to revive the historic brand both in China and overseas.

The company, China’s oldest carmaker, bought bankrupt British automaker MG Rover Group in 2005, acquiring the MG, which got a reputation in the 1960s as a good-handling, affordable English sports car.

Nanjing Auto also acquired Power Train Ltd., MG Rover’s engine-making unit.

The $362 million MG production line was inaugurated yesterday in the eastern city of Nanjing, where the state-owned Chinese automaker was founded 60 years ago.

MG was Britain’s last independent auto manufacturer but had not produced a new model since 1998. In the 1960s, the company turned out 40 percent of the cars bought in Britain.

Nanjing and rival Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp. (SAIC) both had sought to buy part or all of MG Rover Group’s assets. SAIC subsequently purchased technology for two Rover models, the 25 and 75, and has since begun making its own brand car based on the 75, called the “Roewe 75.”

Nanjing Auto plans to reintroduce MG models in China and Europe and is also planning production at an assembly line in Ardmore, Okla., beginning next year.

Despite Nanjing Auto’s role in rescuing the MG Rover, recent state media reports said the company is struggling to raise financing from local banks.

Earlier this month, Nanjing Auto’s chairman, Wang Haoliang, presented a proposal to China’s national legislature seeking “policy support” for a loan worth up to $258 million for its expansion, according to the state-owned Shanghai Securities News.

The newspaper said that local lenders were wary, given that some Nanjing Auto units were losing money.

Nanjing Auto has a 50-50 joint venture with Italian automaker Fiat and is a major manufacturer of trucks and other commercial vehicles, as well as passenger cars. So far, its main export markets have been in Africa, Latin America and southern Europe.

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