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China brings fabled British sports car to US

Ashley Milne-Tyte Jul 12, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: We’re going to take you on a little automotive odyssey for our next item. A fabled British sportscar by way of China and Ardmore, Oklahoma. The Nanjing Automobile Group bought Britain’s MG Rover last year. And today…Oklahoma officials announced a new MG coupe will be built there beginning sometime in 2008. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.

: Nanjing could be the first Chinese automaker to build cars in the US. Edward Lapham of Automotive News says in basing itself here the company’s betting in part on nostalgia.

EDWARD LAPHAM: The theory is that the United States will be a primary market for new sports cars. There’s a great love for the old MG brand here.

And he says Nanjing wants to establish itself in the world’s biggest car market. Oklahoma is giving the company plenty of incentives to put down roots in the state. Wes Stuckey is with the Ardmore Development Authority, that’s the town where the plant will be located. He says Oklahoma has a program called “quality jobs.”

WES STUCKEY: The program pays companies back up to 5 percent of their payroll every quarter for 10 years, and that’s a very valuable cash incentive.

He’s delighted the new company is bringing jobs to a state that’s seen thousands of manufacturing layoffs this year. But Edward Lapham of Automotive News has his doubts about the new venture. Remember the DeLorean? Lapham says that company, like this one, had limited auto making experience, and it went bust.

LAPHAM: There’s the issues of establishing a dealer network and selling it at a price that can happen and developing the spare parts that need to go along with it. It’s a start-up, and to accomplish all that in two years is a remarkable challenge.

It’s not that it can’t be done, he says, just that the company has its work cut out.

I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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