Popular TF roadster to return
Cape Town - MG-Rover owners will get a big Christmas present following the news that MG is coming back to South Africa.
Owners who decided to stick with the brand following the closure of the MG-Rover company in the UK will be pleased to hear that the MG brand - both sedan and two-seater sports car versions - will be coming back to South Africa next year.
China's Nanjing Automobiles Group (NAC) is to re-start production of MG ZT saloons and MG TF sports cars at the Longbridge plant in the UK, and these cars will be rolled out into the South African market.
This means a ready supply of parts, plus the continued service promised, and adhered to, by previous MG-Rover importers Pearl Automotive, a member of the Imperial Motors Group.
Many MG-Rover owners expected to lose money on resale values following the failure of the previous MG-Rover operation in the UK, but this is not expected to happen now as MGs - Rovers are not planned for some time - will come back into the country.
New production line
A statement from Pearl Automotive points to the actions taking place at Longbridge, where 400 former workers have been re-employed to set up a new production line for the MGs, with a further 800 workers to be employed once the line is producing cars.
My sources tell me the moves will impact heavily on the South African operation, which was, until the closure, the biggest importer of MG and Rover cars outside Europe.
Former MG-Rover dealerships in SA which switched over to service only are expected to be re-activated, or new ones set up where, for instance in Cape Town, the dealerships were closed or switched over to other brands within the Imperial stable.
The MG ZT sedans are mechanically almost identical to the Rover 75 models, even to the level of most body panels, which will ensure ready availability of parts.
The statement says: "Pearl Automotive's commitment to protect the brand in South Africa through honouring all warranties and motor plans and also to keep all MG Rover dealers operational from an after sales point of view has put them in a strong position to be re-appointed by NAC as the franchise holders for MG Rover in South Africa.
"Pearl Automotive will continue to keep all MG Rover dealers operational and continue to honour warranties and motor plans. This will ensure that the product can be re-launched in South Africa with minimal disruption."
As far as Rover is concerned, Rover 25 and Rover 75 models will be made in China, for local consumption under the Austin brand name, and for export as MGs.
It is likely Pearl will ensure there will a differentiation between the UK-built and Chinese products should the latter hit our shores.
The news comes at a good time for former MG-Rover owners, who will see resale values of their cars climb once the newcomers hit SA markets, as well as for Pearl Automotive and Imperial, which is thought to have lost as much as R20-million in the value of cars in its showrooms, and on the water, when the collapse of the UK firm was announced
The Rover name was bought by Shanghai Automotive, the Chinese company which precipitated the Mg-Rover collapse, and which owns the intellectual property rights.
This company will continue to produce a stretched Rover 75 in the immediate future, but it is expected the impasse over the Rover name will be settled by the Chinese Government, which owns both Chinese motor companies.
MG production at Longbridge is expected to start early next year, with as many as four new models in production by 2007.