13 July 2006

Chickasaws Chisel Chinks, Revive MG


A struggling Chinese manufacturer, the remnants of a failed British automaker and an ambitious American Indian tribe plan to pool their resources to rescue the iconic MG sports car from the automotive junkyard.

A consortium led by Nanjing Automobile Group announced a $2-billion plan Wednesday to construct a state-of-the art production facility in China, reopen a shuttered MG factory in England and open an assembly plant and a distribution center in the small town of Ardmore, Okla.

The Nanjing-led group - knowing that customers may well be skeptical of an upstart Chinese manufacturer - will have to produce a car that is well-designed and without flaws right out of the gate or risk damaging the brand's reputation.

Good for them. The old MGs were well enough designed, and a lot of fun to drive. Without flaws? Hardly.
The new MG team also is counting on additional help from the Chickasaws, a 38,000-member tribe based in Ada, Okla. Under federal law, Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations and are exempt from paying taxes. Hale said his group was researching ways that the MG operation could benefit financially from a partnership with the tribe.

"I can tell you, there may be some unique tax advantages there," he said.

Marc Nuttle, a partner in the MG project, said he was working with the Chickasaws on a plan to develop a 3,000-acre parcel north of Ardmore, Okla., where the MG facility would be based.

That site was selected because it has a long runway that could be expanded to accommodate large cargo aircraft and is close to a rail line and freeways.

In addition to casinos, the Chickasaws operate a medical services company, a historic hotel and a factory that makes chocolate-covered potato chips. This year, the tribe projects that its businesses will net nearly $200 million.

A long runway near a rail line and freeways, huh? In a 'sovereign nation', huh? Look for an influx of Chinese. They could be the 'new Mexicans'. Ha!

As far as the car itself goes, it may look like a retro MG TF, but it'll more likely have just a family resemblance. Those things were fine in their day, but there's no way they could produce anything remotely like it today that would even be legal to sell in the U.S. in terms of emissions and safety standards, not to mention reliability. It will be interesting to see what Nanjing comes up with.

They're serious, though. They've sent their own chefs to Birmingham. Apparently, the Chinese don't like fish and chips.

I wonder what they'll think of mutton stew and fry bread?

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