MG Motor UK have announced officially that car assembly at the once expansive Longbridge Birmingham site has been axed in what the company quote as saying are “cost cutting measures“.
Local Birmingham MPs are of course up in arms at the news but to be totally honest the business decision is a sound one. In recent years what assembly has been taking place has been at best, partial final assembly from boxed up parts in tea chests. In fact, my last two recent plant visits to Longbridge were quite unique so far as they have been the only car assembly plant visits… where I actually witnessed no cars being produced.
Despite their sales increasing 130% over last year, we are still looking at figures that are quite poor in the grand scheme of things compared to most other brands that sell in the UK. To have such a large complex with so few workers rattling around inside must have been costing the company a small fortune since “production” restarted back in 2008. The last time I visited the works in 2014 there wasn’t even any heating switched on. According to sources, job losses stand at twenty five.
Personally… my take is that the parent company were at best only making a token gesture to keep an element of Britishness in the product… remember… Britishness sells by the skip load throughout the rest of the word – especially Asia. My own opinion is that this was always a business plan by SIAC & MG in order for them to gain knowledge about engineering a car for European palates.
A former employee of the company told me a few months ago “at best they will gain our donated skills and knowledge required to produce, engineer and onwardly develop cars for a world market and then move on… what loyalty does a Chinese company have to the UK with just a mere handful of staff building part assembled vehicles“. Harsh words perhaps – but true. Those of us who don’t wear Rover tinted spectacles have subconsciously known this was bound to happen for some time.
This seems to finally end one of the trades longest running saga’s… so what of the remaining obsolete factory buildings? Another source very close to Autobritannia told me recently; “The owners of the Longbridge facility (St Mowden) have been seen on site and a number of assembly workers have been undertaking housekeeping and tidy-up duties that have even included cutting back overgrown vegetation“.
Other remaining assembly workers have been moved around within the company that still, despite the recent announcement, continues to have a strong R&D presence in the UK. MG employ 350 or so people in design and development and that number is looking to rise to over 400 – so its not all bad news. MG Motor head of sales and marketing has said; “with efficiency and flexibility both key to long term market success, off-shoring vehicle production is a necessary business decision”
But if MG are to make any real impact in the UK, they need to stand up and look professional in the way they operate in the market place. Dealers still continue to drop out of the network as another one joins, customers still report serious shortcomings in replacement spares availability and now rumours of the new MG GS being “capped” insofar as its availability in the showrooms are now bubbling away in the background.
MG Motor UK have done themselves no favours in recent years no thanks to varying product quality, weak and ineffective advertising, dismal spares back up and a general lack of interest from the public who would rather put their money to good use than gamble it. Another fact I find impossible to comprehend is their lack of really capitalising on their recent sport and racing adventures… what a waste of money.
My biggest concern is that MGs parent company simply don’t care about the UK market place nor catering for existing customers needs. I have heard that the company cannot and will not supply something as seemingly trivial as a flywheel assembly for the diesel MG6 – despite this being a weak component on that model. My heart does go out to owners of recent MG products… it’s starting to look like you’ve been kippered.
This recent news of production at Longbridge comes as a sad but purely sensible business strategy. Can they really make a viable concern of themselves in the UK or are the Chinese just playing a game with potential buyers hard earned cash? Until a massive improvement in their public perception happens, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recommend an MG as a viable and sensible purchase.
If the truth be really known as to what I think of all this long running debacle is… my overall conclusion is a simple one:
If you want to fly the flag for Britain… go buy a Qashqai, at least its designed, styled, engineered and of course… fully assembled in the UK – and long may it continue to be.