The site was once the biggest manufacturing plant in the world and part of Birmingham’s transport history, many thousands were employed producing and assembling cars in peacetime, which include the iconic Austin Mini, as well as aeroplanes, such as the Lancaster bomber, and munitions during the wars. Over a period of some ninety years the name of the firm operating from the Longbridge factory has changed many times.
In 1994 BMW bought Rover and the Longbridge plant passed into BMW’s hands. However, after a few years and it was sold to the ‘Phoenix Consortium’ in a management buyout, for the princely sum of £10. At the time, many financial commentators claimed that the plant was not modern enough and it would surely run out of money in a few years.
In April 2005 the Phoenix Consortium put MG Rover group into administration and the 6000 remaining workers were asked to go home. After 100 years of constant occupation it seemed possible the workers have packed and gone home for the final time.
Chinese automobile corporation Nanjing bought MG Rover three months after it went into receivership and is expected to restart MG ZT and MG TF production in early 2007.
Nanjing also have plans to launch three new car ranges towards the end of 2008 which will be produced at Longbridge and possibly in China; these cars are likely to be badged as MGs and even as Austins – reviving a historic marque which was discontinued almost 20 years ago.
Codenamed RDX60, this is an early prototype of the five-seat hatchback designed to replace the Rover 45, and do battle with the Focus and Golf. Sadly it came too late to save the company.