Image:Duke Hale
Chris Landsberger  /  The Oklahoman
Duke Hale, chairman and chief executive officer of Nanjing's MG Motors speaks about his company's global business strategy to build vehicles in Nanjing, China, as well as plans to build an assembly plant in southern Oklahoma to help revive a historic English automotive brand — the MG.
updated 7/12/2006 6:48:31 PM ET 2006-07-12T22:48:31

The MG, which gained a reputation in the 1960s as a good-handling, affordable English sports car, will take on a new life under a Chinese company that wants to resurrect the automotive brand in hopes of appealing to a new generation of car buyers.

Nanjing Automobile Corp., China’s oldest carmaker, announced Wednesday plans to locate a manufacturing facility and parts distribution center for the car at the Ardmore Airpark in south-central Oklahoma. This would be the first Chinese automotive plant in the United States.

In formalizing an announcement the company made earlier Wednesday, Duke T. Hale, chairman and chief executive officer of Nanjing’s MG Motors North America/Europe Corp., said the strength of the MG brand name will help sell the sporty vehicle.

“Owners clubs and enthusiasts are all about the brand,” he said. “They are all about driving an MG.”

A version of the MG was produced in England until 2005, when MG Rover collapsed. There has not been a new version of the MG sold in North America in 26 years.

MG Motors plans to offer a full range of sports cars and sedans. The Oklahoma plant will produce a newly designed TF Coupe. The rear wheel drive two-seater was designed by MG’s former owners but never built.

After viewing an artist’s rendering of the coupe, David Healy, an automotive industry analyst for Burnham Securities, Inc., said it could be difficult for Nanjing to break into the competitive North American market.

“It’s a generic sports car,” Healy said, “and it’s going to be competing in a crowded field.

“They need something other than the MG label to go with it. If they have something new or different, it will fly very well, but if it’s just 5 more horsepower or half a second less on zero to 60 than the competition, they’re in a dog fight.”

Three sedans will be built at Nanjing’s facilities in China and the MG TF roadster will be built at the former MG Rover Longbridge assembly plant near Birmingham, England.

Hale said Ardmore will be an excellent location for a distribution center because it has rail access, the city’s airpark has ability to handle large aircraft and Houston can be used as a port.

“Ardmore and the airpark truly is a logistical, distribution dream,” Hale said.

Oklahoma City will be the site of the company’s global headquarters for sales, marketing and distribution outside of Asia. A new research and development facility will be housed at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

“We can take those junior level, senior level, graduate level engineering students that have interest in automotive and give them practical experience,” he said. “We are going to give something back to the community, not just take.”

At full capacity, the assembly plant at the Ardmore Airpark will employ about 325 people, the global headquarters in Oklahoma City will employ another 150, and an estimated 35 will work at the research and development entity in Norman, for an estimated annual payroll exceeding $30 million.

All three of the Nanjing’s locations in Oklahoma are expected to qualify under the state’s Quality Jobs Act, which allows for quarterly cash payments of up to 5 percent of the company’s payroll for 10 years, said Amy Polonchek, executive director of Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce.

The state also is planning to spend $15 million for improvements to the Ardmore airpark from a newly created business development fund, and will provide free startup training for its employees through its CareerTech program, Polonchek said.

“So Oklahoma, a great place to be, in fact I said just the other day, I think it may be from a business, commerce perspective the best kept secret in the U.S.,” Hale said. “I mean when we compared yourselves in the total state offering to other states, man, I can tell you the incentive package offered by the state is superb.

“We got a good package. It was a key component in our decision to move to Oklahoma.”

No new model since 1998
MG was Britain’s last independent auto manufacturer but had not produced a new model since 1998. In the 1960s, the company turned out 40 percent of the cars bought in Britain.

The Ardmore investment comes less than five months after General Motors Corp. closed its Oklahoma City assembly plant, the first of 12 facilities the company plans to shutter by 2008 as it struggles to bring production in line with market demand. The Oklahoma City plant produced sport utility vehicles like the Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT and employed 2,200 hourly and 200 salaried workers.

The deal came together after state officials visited company officials in England to pitch Ardmore as an ideal location for the plant.

The cost of the proposed 300,000-square-foot assembly plant and distribution facility is not yet known, but the total capital investment in reviving MG exceeds $2 billion, including MG’s new operations in China, reopening the facility in England and building new facilities in Oklahoma.

Nanjing acquired MG Rover Group Ltd. last year and plans to reintroduce the cars in China and Europe before the first MG rolls off the assembly line in Ardmore in the third quarter of 2008. The company expects to start construction early next year.

China’s oldest carmaker plans to build an assembly plant in southern Oklahoma to help revive a historic English automotive brand — the MG.

Nanjing Automobile Corp. will locate a manufacturing facility and parts distribution center at the Ardmore Air Park, said Duke T. Hale, the company’s new president and chief executive.

Oklahoma City will be the site of the company’s global headquarters for sales, marketing and distribution outside of Asia. A new research and development facility will be housed at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

The Oklahoma operations are part of a global business strategy by the newly formed MG Motors, which also plans to build vehicles in Nanjing, China, NAC’s home, as well as resume production at the Longbridge assembly plant near Birmingham, England.

“We’re positioning ourselves as a global car,” Hale said. “Our vision is to try to create a world-class car in a world-class company.”

A formal announcement was planned Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Hale said Oklahoma was one of several locations the company considered for the plant, and called the state’s incentive package “pretty darn aggressive.” The state is offering Nanjing tax breaks for job creation and a new business development fund.

At full capacity, MG Motors is expected to create about 550 jobs in Oklahoma.

MG was Britain’s last independent auto manufacturer but had not produced a new model since 1998. In the 1960s, the company turned out 40 percent of the cars bought in Britain.

The Ardmore investment comes less than five months after General Motors Corp. closed its Oklahoma City assembly plant, the first of 12 facilities the company plans to shutter by 2008 as it struggles to bring production in line with market demand. The Oklahoma City plant produced sport utility vehicles like the Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT and employed 2,200 hourly and 200 salaried workers.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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