An MG Rover redundancy announcement could come before the expected General Election on May 5, industry sources indicated yesterday.
But the company remains tight-lipped as to how many jobs might go as part of its joint venture deal with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
A total of 6,100 jobs are currently based at Longbridge with 1,250 making engines.
MG Rover has long indicated that jobs will inevitably go as a result of the SAIC agreement.
But it is refusing to comment on reports that 2,000 or even 3,000 could be axed.
However, a mass clearout is unlikely and jobs are likely to disappear over a period of months linked to complex phasing of work going out to China.
That could ease the pressure on the Government which doesn't want to see Rover " crisis" headlines ahead of the big vote.
The first new car out of the partnership will not arrive before 2007 and in the meantime existing MG Rover models will be built both in Birmingham and China.
The exception could be the 25 where production may be transferred entirely to China, with an import deal for the UK and European market.
It has now emerged that a second Chinese company, Nanjing Automotive, is making it a three-way partnership.
Industry sources say it has always been party to the agreement but neither MG Rover or the Chinese authorities have until now been prepared to confirm NA's role.
Powertrain engine jobs at MG Rover could be among the most vulnerable at the factory because K-series production will quickly get under way in China. A source said: "They will be able to go for very significantly higher production volumes than we can." The implication is that the Chinese will be able to produce engines far cheaper than at Longbridge.
They may also continue to build existing MG Rover models in China even when the first new cars go into production.
SAIC payments to MG Rover are set to be way lower than the £1 billion first being talked about in some circles.
So far two payments have been made, totalling between them £67 million. A further £133 million is expected to be handed over in return for the Chinese acquiring access to the MG Rover brands and associated intellectual property.
But very much more money could be pumped into the deal if more new cars are built.
Apart from a small car to be launched first, medium, large and sports models could also be jointly developed.
Part of the £133 million could be used to sweeten redundancy packages, it is thought.
MG Rover has already said it is looking for £100 million of savings at Longbridge, of which £60 million will be on the components side.
The other £40 million is due to come from cutting overhead costs.
To save that amount of money might mean about 1,300 jobs would have to go. But much is likely to depend first on how well MG Rover sales hold up between now and 2007 and then how well the new small car does.
The group is hoping for around 115,000 to 120,000 cars out of Longbridge this year - the aim of the alliance is to eventually see 200,000 cars in Birmingham and 800,000 a year in China.
Either way MG Rover looks set to act quickly.
The company, which is currently losing some £80 million a year, remains insistent that it will break even in 2005.