Longbridge is being consigned to history after more than 100 years – with a multi-million pound Chinese makeover to turn the site into the nerve centre of MG design worldwide.
The former home of Lord Austin, British Leyland, Red Robbo, Sir Michael Edwardes, BMW and John Towers is to be renamed MG Birmingham, with an MG Worldwide Design Studio at the heart of the new operation.
The launch of the MG6 model later this year will pave the way for production running into thousands of vehicles, transforming the car firm from a tiny niche operator making just 400 cars a year into a volume manufacturer with major export ambitions.
The plans mark the biggest overhaul at the UK’s most famous factory site since Chinese firm Nanjing bought the former assets of MG Rover for £53 million after the car firm went bust amid debts of £1.3 billion nearly five years ago.
The Chinese plans for Longbridge have remained largely under wraps since China’s biggest car firm Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation took over Nanjing Automobile – but the site is now gearing up for millions of pounds of investment.
Guy Jones, sales and marketing director of MG Motor UK, said: “I do not think that people realise how big MG could be globally. They could have just shipped everything in from China, but this could be the gateway to Europe for MG.
“This is a multi-million pound investment. We want to make Birmingham the home for the MG brand globally – Longbridge is going to be revitalised.
“We want the site to be referred to in common language as MG Birmingham. The company will be MG Motor UK.
“We are in the second largest city in the UK but, to global and international people, Longbridge is meaningless.
“This is more of a subtle change; the postal address remains the same. We want to give it its own identity separate from MG Rover, to give it international recognition. Instead of saying ‘here is a plan of Longbridge, we will say here is a plan of MG Birmingham.’
Mr Jones said the launch of the MG6 later this year would be the catalyst for transforming the Chinese car firm into a volume manufacturer. So far the factory has only sold a few hundred limited edition cars and MG TF135 models.
“We are going from small volumes to large volumes, from hundreds of cars to thousands. This is a very exciting time for a new company.
“This is the complete opposite of the rest of the market, where global players are looking to reduce and fight their corners.
“We are still going to be a very lean, very efficient company, but we have got the biggest player in the biggest car market in the world as the parent company.”
The revamp of Longbridge will also see an on-site MG dealership set up in the old visitor centre while the conference centre will be refurbished with a view to attracting other users.
“We do not have a significant presence in the centre of Birmingham and we are sure people would like to have their cars serviced at a factory dealership.”