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MG halts assembly of cars in Great Britain

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1948 MG TC hood ornament. Photo by Jill Reger.

At its peak in the late 1960s, the automobile assembly plant in Longbridge, Birmingham, England, employed an estimated 25,000 workers, building a range of vehicles sold under the British Leyland banner. Today the plant occupies less than half of its former 400 acres and employs roughly 500 workers (including those in research and development), but it still handles final assembly of certain MG automobiles for parent company Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). At least it did until last month: As The Mirror (via Just British) reports, SAIC has moved all automotive production back to China.

According to MG Motor UK sales and marketing head, Matthey Cheyne, the move is a “necessary business decision… (that) will allow faster access to product and help to meet ever-increasing customer demand, all while maintaining the highest levels of production quality.” Roughly 25 manufacturing employees are expected to lose their jobs, though sales and marketing staff not deemed redundant by the move will remain at the site.

The announcement is hardly the first time the Longbridge plant staff has received bad news. Then-parent BMW sold the Rover Group, and with it the Longbridge Plant, to the Phoenix Consortium in 2000, resulting in a management buyout and the formation of MG Rover Group. By 2005, MG Rover Group was out of money, forced to shutter the factory and fire an estimated 6,000 workers.

Just 90 days after the closure, MG Rover Group and the Longbridge plant were purchased by Chinese automaker Nanjing. Nanjing itself was bought by SAIC in late 2007, and in 2008 the plant resumed final assembly of the MG TF roadster. In 2011, the plant began producing the MG 6, a variant of the Chinese Roewe 550 sedan, from semi-knocked-down kits shipped from China. The MG 3 subcompact entered production in Longbridge in 2012, and plans were in place to build a new MG SUV (again from semi-knocked-down kits) at the plant this year.

The shuttering of the Longbridge assembly line ends nearly 92 years of MG manufacturing history in England.