By SEAN MURPHY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; 12:17 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- 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 chairman and chief executive officer of Nanjing's MG Motors North America/Europe business.
In formalizing an announcement the company made earlier Wednesday, Hale told an Oklahoma City news conference that 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."
Hale said Oklahoma was one of several locations the company considered for the plant. He said strong state incentives and distribution advantages contributed to the decision.
He 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.
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 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.
The state is offering Nanjing tax breaks for job creation and a new business development fund. The state will make $15 million in improvements to the Ardmore airpark.
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 the 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.
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.
Three sedans will be built at Nanjing's facilities in China and the MG TF roadster will be built at the former MG Rover factory in Longbridge.
Associated Press Writer Tim Talley contributed to this report.