This is the face of 21st century car manufacturing – with more than 200 Longbridge engineers at the nerve centre of the relaunch of MG volume production in the UK.
Engineers based at the hi-tech Chinese-owned complex at the famous Birmingham car factory are working with Shanghai-based colleagues to prepare for the next milestone in the long and distinguished history of the much-loved MG brand.
Video-conferencing to China, open-plan offices and computer screens are the order of the day for these engineers, a far cry from the British Leyland days of Red Robbo, wildcat strikes and mass meetings in Cofton Park.
Longbridge is now back proudly at the forefront of the UK motoring sector following the £3 million launch of the world’s newest automotive design studio.
The former home of British Leyland, BMW and John Towers has entered a crucial new phase in its 100-year plus history with the creation of 300 hi-tech jobs under Chinese owners SAIC.
The workers will be operating the 21st century international MG design studio, which was unveiled to much acclaim this month.
And the Birmingham car factory has also undergone a multi-million pound makeover as it prepares to resume volume production with the launch of the MG6 later this year.
Dave Lindley, president of SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre, said: “This is an important landmark not only for the West Midlands, but for the automotive industry world-wide.
“This investment by SAIC is a clear commitment to retaining and developing our UK workforce. Not only have we created some 300 hi-tech, high-value jobs, but we have invested £20 million in R&D companies throughout the supply chain in the UK and Europe.”
He said SAIC had invested £2.5 million in the engineering complex alone.
“There are 210 engineers based in this office and we have 30 expat engineers located in China," he said.
"There is a steady flow of Chinese engineers who come to work in this office. In my view, the reason we are here after five years and why we will be here in five years’ time is that we are part of the Chinese business and we are very much fully integrated into that business. We are relying 100 per cent on being integrated into that team.”
Dr Richard Hutchins, deputy chief executive of Advantage West Midlands, which has backed SAIC with £2 million of investment, said: “It is great to be at the historic Longbridge site on such a positive occasion. Everyone is eager to see the first MG6s rolling off the production line.
“Longbridge now has one of the UK’s leading research and development centres and its launch moves the company into the fast lane of hi-tech car development.”
The launch of the MG6 will pave the way for potential production of thousands of vehicles, transforming the firm from a tiny niche operator, making just 400 cars a year, into a volume manufacturer with major export ambitions.
Guy Jones, sales and marketing director for MG Motor UK, said: “There has been an enormous amount of work in engineering and design over the past few years and this is now coming to the market.”