A resumption of car production at Longbridge moved a stage nearer yesterday as the site's new occupant announced plans to recruit up to 400 workers.
Nanjing Automobile Corporation of China, which last year bought MG Rover assets from administrators for #53 million, has told union leaders that it plans to start interviewing for a range of jobs next month and the successful applicants could be in place by September.
Meanwhile, the #1.5 million sale of the tooling for the first Nanjing model - the MGTF two-seater sports car - is set to be completed by the end of June.
And pressings firm Stadco is understood to have reached agreement with the Chinese firm to set up a base on the site to produce body components for the new generation of models.
About 40 ex-MG Rover design and manufacturing engineers are already working again at Longbridge.
The first MGTF is set to roll off Longbridge production lines early next year, followed by the rebirth of Longbridge's former flagsghip, the Rover 75.
Transport and General Workers Union regional secretary Gerard Coyne said yesterday: "They have started recruiting a limited number of staff to build up for the MGTF - their initial drive is for about 400.
"In terms of getting production started, this is a very positive sign. There are always fears that the longer the factory lies dormant, the more difficult it is to restart production.
"Anything that anchors production into the UK has got to be good news.
"Nanjing has said they envisage recruitment over June, July and August with a full ramp-up of 400 people by September. They are saying they hope to start production by April 2007."
Nanjing has signed a 33-year lease on Longbridge with site owner St Modwen but fears that the company could eventually pull out of the UK were raised when it was learnt that the deal included a six-month get-out clause that expires on August 22.
Wang Haoliang, the global head of Nanjing, told The Birmingham Post in April that the company was fully committed to a long term project at Longbridge.
Industry insiders yesterday said the all the evidence was now pointing to the Chinese agreeing a long-term lease of the site.
A spokesman for Phoenix Venture Holdings, the former owner of MG Rover, confirmed that the sale of MGTF tooling, which Phoenix owns and which would clear the path for the first new Nanjing model, was progressing.
"The sale is going through its formal stages and should be completed next month. The money will go into the pot which will ultimately be transferred into the employee trust fund," he said.
A spokesman for Stadco declined to confirm that the firm - which has a base in Coventry - had reached agreement to produce body parts at Longbridge.