A staple of British sportscar motoring lore will soon be gracing more showrooms in South East Asia after Saic Motor, which owns the MG brand, sets up a billion-dirham, 50,000-unit assembly plant in Thailand to build the cars.
China's Saic and Thailand's Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group will invest an initial 1.8 billion yuan (Dh1.06bn) in the joint venture and targets to begin car sales in 2014, according to Saic. The Chinese car maker will own 51 per cent of the venture, with CP holding the remaining stake.
The partners are targeting to expand annual capacity for the plant to 200,000 units, Saic said, without giving a timeframe.
It sold 90,035 MG and Roewe vehicles in the first six months of this year, according to its website.
Saic is investing in factories outside China as it seeks to expand beyond its home market, where the car manufacturer also makes passenger vehicles through joint ventures with General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen (VW).
China has been the largest trading partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since 2009. Saic took control of the MG brand through a merger with Nanjing Automobile Group, which bought the British brand and other assets for US$97 million (Dh356.2m) in 2005 after MG Rover went bust in Britain.
MG was founded in 1924 near Oxford in central southern England, becoming known for two-seater sports cars including the MGA, Midget and MGB GT, which ceased production in 1980 after the company was bought by the precursor of Rover Group as the UK car industry consolidated.
The little sportscar became a firm favourite in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the days before supercars and it still holds allure for celebrities such as the international model Kate Moss, who drives a dark-blue MG Midget MkIII convertible.
Saic has spent about half of the £4.5bn (Dh26.64bn) it has earmarked for research and development through 2015 for all its brands, including for joint venture projects with GM and VW, according to MG's website.
The CP Group, controlled by the billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, has investments in industries including car parts, food, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and property development.
* Bloomberg News