Nanjing Automobile will miss its year-end deadline to finalise plans for reviving production at the former MG Rover site, it has been claimed.
Nanjing is still searching for financial backers and a new management team despite forecasts it made two-and-a-half months ago that final plans to revive car production would be announced by the end of the year, a source said.
The claim comes just days after Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said the Longbridge saga had become "like a soap opera" which he feared would not have a happy ending.
Another industry expert, Professor Kumar Bhattacharyya, said any attempt by Nanjing to restart car production at the Longbridge plant was "complete commercial nonsense."
Prof Bhattacharyya, the head of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, said he did not believe Nanjing had either the money or the commitment to revive production in the Midlands.
Nanjing made some progress last month when it signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to sell the Austin-Healy brand to partner GB Sports Car, but there was still a lot of work to do.
"The MOU is just another step along the way rather than fixing anything in concrete. The business plan needs to be fully sorted," the source, who is familiar with the situation, said.
"I think we have moved from a position of scepticism towards one of pessimism."
He said Nanjing was working on ensuring engine technology at Longbridge was updated to meet European engine emissions standards.
Nanjing, which paid #53 million for the assets of the MG Rover after its collapse in April, said in September it planned to revive production at the Longbridge plant by 2007 and create 1,200 jobs at the site.
Nanjing vice-president Wang Qiu Jing said it expected to complete a combined business plan with its partners in two to three months and would issue a statement once it was finalised.
Nanjing has declined to comment since September amid fears a deal may fall through.
MG Rover collapsed under debts of #1.4 billion in April this year, resulting in 5,000 job losses.
Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers chose Nanjing over rival Chinese carmaker Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) in July to pay for the assets of MG Rover.
Unions backed the SAIC bid at the time as they believed it provided greater certainty of resuming production and creating jobs at the plant.
No one from Nanjing Automobile was available for comment.