SHANGHAI, March 27 (AP) — Nanjing Automobile, the Chinese carmaker that bought MG Rover two years ago, began production of MG sports cars Tuesday, seeking to revive the historic brand both in China and overseas.
The company, China’s oldest carmaker, bought the bankrupt British automaker MG Rover Group in 2005, acquiring the MG brand, which enjoyed a reputation in the 1960s as a good-handling, affordable English sports car.
Nanjing Auto also acquired Power Train, MG Rover’s engine-making unit.
The $362 million MG production line started up Tuesday in the eastern city of Nanjing, where the state-owned Chinese automaker was founded 60 years ago.
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.
Nanjing Auto plans to reintroduce MG models in China and Europe and is planning production at an assembly line in Ardmore, Okla., next year.
Despite Nanjing Auto’s role in rescuing the MG Rover, recent state media reports said the company was struggling to raise financing from local banks.
This month, Nanjing Auto’s chairman, Wang Haoliang, presented a proposal to China’s national legislature seeking support for a loan worth up to 3 billion yuan ($258 million) for its expansion, according to the state-owned newspaper Shanghai Securities News.
It said that local lenders were wary, given that some Nanjing Auto units were losing money.
Nanjing Auto has a 50-50 joint venture with the Italian automaker Fiat and is a major manufacturer of trucks and other commercial vehicles, as well as passenger cars. So far, its main export markets have been in Africa, Latin America and southern Europe.