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A little bit of China in your car if it's badged MG Rover. That's a real possibility now with the announcement last month of a long-term strategic alliance between MG Rover and the China Brilliance industrial group.

The 50-50 venture will result in the British car maker and its Chinese partner sharing almost every aspect of the automotive business.

This will include joint car and engine development and production, component sourcing and sales revenue from all the markets in which they operate.

According to Kevin Howe, MG Rover's chief executive, the agreement is 'a wide ranging global alliance with a minimum operating horizon of 10 years'.

Talking to Motors, he says China Brilliance's influence will come particularly in the joint development of an all-new small car replacing the 25.

'China Brilliance is also just about to launch its own car, the Zhonghua saloon which is slightly bigger than our 75. Its MPV derivative offers real possibilities, we think.

'We see MG Rover-derived cars being manufactured in China and, equally, the opportunity also exists for MG Rover to manufacture and market vehicles from China Brilliance.'

Kevin Howe contradicts the notion that a Chinese-built car could be cheap and cheerful, and maybe not have the same prestige value that other more established - and mainly European - marques may have acquired in the public imagination with their often long and distinguished pedigrees.

He says: 'That's an inappropriate suggestion. The quality of everything from China is staggering and they combine high volume production with very high quality standards. Just look at the CV of China Brilliance. It's a most prestigious operation.'

China Brilliance - which is currently quoted on the New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges - has the distinction of being the first Chinese group ever to be in a position of having an overseas stock exchange listing.

There are eight companies in the China Brilliance group with an annual turnover of dollars 2.8 billion. In total, more than 40,000 people are employed in seven vehicle manufacturing factories and three engine plants.

Until the Zhonghua car, its output was made up of mostly commercial vehicles. These included the likes of minibuses, SUVs, pick-ups, light trucks and, not forgetting, even the now legendary black cab.

Kevin Howe says he is very interested in the family of advanced engines that China Brilliance is developing with FEV in Germany.

'They will be manufactured at a state-of-the-art plant in China and obviously we have an interest, replacing our K-series.

'We think there's so much potential here, especially from economies of scale. China is also the fastest growing market for cars.'

Will it all work for the last British-owned manufacturer, ditched by *** two years ago?

Kevin Howe says he can't envisage failure because 'there are so many opportunities and we have so much in common.'

An independent but still non-committal view is that of Professor Garel Rhys of Cardiff University's Centre for Automotive Industry Research.

He says: 'It's an incredibly significant move in the motor industry if it all comes to fruition.'
 

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True Brit
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Perhaps they could pay MGR to engineer and design all the cars, then MGR make the cars for the UK and Europe, China Brilliance make the car for Asia.
 
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