Friday, 1 June 2007

Longbridge Re-opens for Business

So the big day has come and gone, my BLOGS up to now have been generally mild mannered and tempered to reflect a conservative approach to ‘reporting’. I never intended my BLOG to be hard-hitting, or even critical – but unfortunately my temper has been stretched after watching Tuesday’s reports by the media.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not naive enough to have expected a rose tinted view on the opening of Longbridge – however I had hoped for an open minded approach to something that none of us ever believed we would see happen only 2 years ago.
Let me start by putting things into perspective.
Mid April 2005 will forever be etched on the hearts and minds of 1000’s of employee’s, suppliers, family’s and anyone associated with the Longbridge plant. It became clear during the days and weeks that followed, that there wouldn’t be any white knight in Shining Armour, no government rescue, not even a commitment from the preferred savior from China.
We watched as negotiation after negotiation, hope after hope disappeared into the distance, all we could do was observe, as our lives were ripped apart, livelihoods eradicated, dreams destroyed and futures left in doubt. The government poured millions into re-training and investigating what had caused such a disaster. The gates were locked and the plant mothballed, any future for the site looked bleak – former workers were told to move on, find new employment and leave the past behind.
Then a little known Chinese automotive company called Nanjing Automotive Corporation, managed to outbid a number of rivals to purchase the brand, the assets and the legacy that was MG and Longbridge. I wonder if they knew what they had exactly purchased? How deep the feelings for MG and Longbridge went, how significant the closure of Longbridge was to so many people, and just how well respected the MG brand was across the world. They made – some would say – ‘rash’ decisions and announced a commitment to keep Longbridge at the heart of MG’s future.

So a long journey started, a journey that meant an enormous investment by NAC in both time and money, immense challenges faced the company. With no production facility in China, no workforce, no suppliers, no infrastructure, no modern systems and no dealer network – NAC rose to the challenge and systematically achieved every goal that was set before them. One of those goals was the re-opening of Longbridge for production; May 29th 2007 was the internally issued date for this enormous challenge, and as with all of the official claims made by this company, that day saw a magnificent celebration to celebrate an achievement that few of us believed we would ever see again.
So why I am so angry you may ask? Well having spent the whole day answering questions by the British media, it became very apparent from the first discussion with journalists at 6.20am that the tone would be negative. I conducted over 25 interviews, and almost everyone followed the same script: Why weren’t we employing 1000’s of ex-mg-rover employee’s? Why aren’t we releasing new vehicle platforms? Why haven’t we already enlisted dozens of dealers? And why do we believe we can make a success of MG, when BMW, and P4 failed miserably?
There was no mention of those dreadful days in 2005, no mention of the investment made into the brand’s future, not even a whisper of the massive achievements made by NAC. All the broadcast media would do, was convey a pessimistic view on the whole proceedings. Maybe its because I have been out of the country for a while, and I have been used to a press association that try’s to reward great achievements and success, a system that promotes employment and regeneration, and actively encourages investment by ‘foreign’ companies.
I discussed this situation with various journalists, and tried to explain that without NAC we would could have been cutting the ribbon to yet another Lego land housing estate, or opening a trading estate providing consumers with more electronic gadgetry they didn’t know they needed. I tried to convey the fact that this was merely the beginning, and our plans extended far into the distance. Let NAC be judged over 5 to 10 years, not just a few months. Yes we have started conservatively, but I would rather be involved with a slow burning revolution, rather than a flash in the pan. We have all seen those who arrived spouted great things and systematically worn the company and its employee’s down to the ground, started large and brash and ended just as quickly.
Criticizing a company for employing local people, providing local investment and declaring a positive outlook for manufacturing at the heart of the British motoring industry doesn’t quite seem a balanced view – but then again maybe I’m biased?I truly believe that this is the re-birth of MG, not only in China – but also in the UK, and who knows maybe across the world. Good Luck Longbridge and NAC UK, but most of all good luck MG.


Jonny said...

Its clear that you are frustrated, and you have every right to be, the British media just want doom and gloom they don't actually want to make any good news, they cant seem to understand that NAC didn't have to invest but they have and are, we should be pleased they didn't just take everything away and leave the UK completely.

Personally I think its a triumph to have set up a new manufacturing base launched the brand in one of the worlds biggest markets, started production in china and to be already carrying out work here in the UK, not bad for a years work!

Congratulations on the UK re-launch, hope the cars live up to the hype.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame the British media are being like this, over-employment was a big reason for PVH's failure in my opinion, Peugeot employed 2,600 at Ryton, and MG Rover employed 6,700 making fewer cars- madness.

250 employees is an impressive number considering how many small businesses would be needed to create that many jobs.

It's also a shame Car have condemned the new TF before trying it, but I wouldn't have expected any more from that recycle-bin filler..

Warren L said...

So very frustrating, Paul, but don't let the naysayers wear you and NAC down. What you've achieved is remarkable.

All the best.

Matt (mgr off said...

I was annoyed from all the reports from the British press expect. It was like they had already made their minds up prior to the factory launch, which disgusted me.
This is a new business venture, and not a charity. The only way we will see high levels of employment in the motor industry is for companies like NAC to invest (which they are doing and thank you), and for the UK public to buy the products in this country.
If the UK press want to do their bit, they should report on what is actually happening now, and not what’s gone on in the past.
I would ignore them and continue with all your great work. It’s a fantastic achievement what’s been done so far. I look forward to the new journey for MG, and cannot wait for the time I can pick up the new MG TF sales brochure.
Good luck.

Dan said...

I was astonished at the negativity and cynicism of so much of the media reaction - including the "just Chinese kits" jibes* and almost total lack of mentions of NAC's R&D plans for Longbridge.

I didn't watch enough TV coverage of the event to do the "Allegro/Marina/Red Robbo bingo" that normally has to accompany any footage of Longbridge, but I still heard enough references to the 'troubled past' to see that quite a few journalists perceive anything that happens at Longbridge as just another chapter in the BL story, rather than a new opportunity. The significance of Longbridge, as the first Western car plant to be run by a Chinese firm, and as something considered worthwhile by NAC where no-one in the UK was interested, also seemed to be completely ignored.

For whatever reason, while MINI, Land-Rover, Jaguar and LDV have all broken totally free from the BL perception by the press, there are a few too many journalists who'd still like to see the new NAC-MG as the unpalatable rump of BL.

It certainly does show that NAC is going to have an uphill PR battle, but with great initiatives such as yours (how many motor industry figures blog?), I think you'll win in the end.

Keep up the good work - it's fascinating reading!

(*It's rare for Rolls-Royce at Goodwood to be labelled "just German kits" by the press, but that's surely exactly what they are.)

Anonymous said...

All i can say paul is im amazed at what has been achieved in such a short time,i can understand your frustration at the reaction from the british press,but at least you cant accuse them of being inconcistent.hopefully you and nacmg will achieve all your goals and i can trade in my zr for an mg 3,the alternative does not bear thinking about.

Jack Yan said...

I felt the coverage could have been a lot worse, especially having followed the way the Phœnix Four were treated. Having said that, Paul, I sympathize and agree with the above commenters. What NAC has accomplished in such a short time is remarkable. Secondly, Mr Yu and the rest of the team deserve applause not just for this achievement, but for fighting the politics even back in Red China. I have no doubt that the NRDC and other committees had their concerns about mobilizing Longbridge, given the Party’s primary aims are domestic.

David Wilkins said...

Yes, the British coverage was far too negative. Of course, the Longbridge restart is on a small scale, but given that in 2005, everyone thought car-making there was finished, any manufacturing activity at all is a bonus. And it seems to me that Nanjing has never made particularly lavish promises about the scale of the Longbridge revival anyway.

As long as there is some car-making and R&D there, there is always the hope that this could turn to something bigger in future, and even if it doesn't, it's still better than what could realistically have been hoped for in 05.

Roberto said...


Oneida said...

Well said.