A revival of the Austin name could help Nanjing Automobile market its new range of Longbridge-built cars, industry experts have claimed.

The Post revealed last week how Nanjing Automobile Corporation is considering using the marque for the next generation of vehicles it produces.

NAC acquired rights to the name, along with the MG marque, when it bought the assets of MG Rover for #53 million last year.

It said the former MG Rover factory in Birmingham will have a key role in designing and producing some of the cars which are due to be launched in late 2008.

Professor Garel Rhys, of Cardiff University, said Nanjing could benefit from the fact Austin is a largely forgotten brand and that the brand would effectively be new for many younger people.

He added that some of Austin's models, such as the 1300 and the 1800, were good cars and the brand is still associated with much older classic cars such as the Austin 7. It could also go down well in China, where the name's general association with British heritage may help.

"I suppose you would have to be about 45 to remember the brand and it's a long time ago, so Nanjing's Austins would effectively be new market entrants," he said.

"I don't think it would be the disaster that some brands could be. Something could be done with it, but they would have to start again because it's not as if there's a large cohort of people around now that used to be Austin buyers."

The move would see Nanjing to follow in the footsteps of BMW, which revived the Mini.

The Chinese group, which bought most of MG Rover's assets last year, says it reckons car buyers could fall in love with new models sporting the Austin brand.

The Mini became a legend in its own right, becoming a symbol of the Sixties through its starring role in the hit film The Italian Job and now enjoying a fresh lease of life thanks to new owner BMW.

BMW is also making the most of British heritage through its production of new models from the ultimate name in luxury motoring, Rolls-Royce.

But if Nanjing wants to repeat BMW's feat, it may need to overcome painful memories in the market of some of Austin's less successful motor manufacturing ventures, such as the Allegro, Maxi and Princess, analysts say.

Austin Motor Company was a major industry player when it merged with Morris in 1952, but declined after being absorbed into the British Leyland (BL) Motor Corporation, which became Austin Rover in 1982. BL made the Austin Allegro as a small family car under the Austin name from 1973 to 1983.

More novel features of the car included a square steering wheel, which was touted as a sales feature, although there was a suspicion that it had been introduced due to inadequate room between the driver's legs and the wheel.

Industry commentators say the Allegro came to be regarded as a poor design in almost every significant respect, with drivers nicknaming it the 'Agro' due to reliability problems.

They say the Allegro was symptomatic of the enormous difficulties facing British Leyland at the time, with internal company design dogma triumphing over the need for a flexible response to market demand.

Another model, the Maxi, featured a spacious interior, comfortable passenger accommodation, competitive prices and lowish running costs. However, observers say a dull interior and poor build quality let it down, although it was not quite as notorious as the Allegro and Morris Marina.