It was announced recently that Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) who bought MG Rover in 2005 when the group was struggling, will no longer use the Longbridge plant in Birmingham to assemble the MG. Production will move to China instead. SAIC says it is purely a business decision.
The move comes in the wake of MG’s announcement of a 130% growth in sales recently, contributing to a year-on-year figure of around 20%.
According to Matthew Cheyne, head of sales and marketing, it is likely that no more than 25 jobs will be lost in the process. Marketing, sales and after-sales service will not be affected and should proceed as normal: The 300 plus design engineers and other staff will remain at Longbridge. According to Mr Cheyne the change should be seen as a business decision to ensure ‘’…efficiency and flexibility (as) key to long-term market success.’’ He added that ongoing talks between the company and government will form the basis for looking at alternatives to accommodate the fears of those affected.’’ Wherever possible, those individuals whose jobs are indeed affected will be redeployed.
Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield expressed his disappointment at the announcement, “ I understand the business concerns that MG have surrounding costs of assembly at Longbridge, which have undoubtedly been aggravated by problems with the strength of the pound,’’ he said. He continued, ‘’However, more discussions should have taken place to explore alternatives and options before any decisions were finalised.’’
According to Professor David Bailey of Aston University the move comes as no big surprise as the assembly at Longbridge, for quite some time, has served little purpose when one takes into account that virtually the whole car was imported, with just 40 or 50 workers adding the finishing touches at Longbridge. Brexit is another factor, according to Professor Bailey. Importing all the expensive parts no longer makes sense in this uncertain financial climate. Also, using the UK as platform to sell MG’s to the rest of Europe now hangs in the balance, according to the professor.
End of an Era
This will be the end of car assemblies at the plant which has been in use since 1906, when Herbert Austin first started at the site. At one stage the plant covered an area of more than 400 acres and employed several thousand people. It is unclear whether organisational changes will affect the value of the MG vehicles – fortunately, online valuation tools such as the service from the car buying group provide a simple way to check