The first all-new car made by the historic MG brand for 16 years rolled off the production line in Britain on Wednesday under the eyes of its Chinese owners.
The red MG6 saloon was driven off the line at the factory in Longbridge in Birmingham by the plant's only female worker, Lisa Ponter.
MG unveiled the new car to the media amid clouds of dry ice and bursts of confetti six years to the week since 6,500 jobs were lost when the Rover factory closed. Now owned by Chinese car giant Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), the factory has reopened with a drastically-reduced workforce of 400.
The 1.8-liter petrol, turbo-charged MG6 has a top speed of 120 miles per hour and goes from 0-60 mph in less than nine seconds. The car was designed in Britain but the parts are made in China and assembled in the Longbridge plant.
Priced between at around US$ 25,200 MG hopes it will compete with models such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.
Local lawmaker Richard Burden said the unveiling of the new car was a "real milestone" for the Birmingham area in central England, which was once the heart of the British motor industry. "Longbridge has been through dark days. Nothing will bring back the days when thousands were employed on Longbridge production lines," said Burden, a member of the opposition Labor party.
"But the greatest tribute we can pay to the heritage that made the name Longbridge synonymous with motor manufacturing throughout the 20th century is to build a future in the 21st century," he told the BBC.
The launch of the MG6 is a welcome shot in the arm for the British car industry which was hit hard by the global financial crisis. Production and sales slumped dramatically in early 2009 before rallying on the back of a government car-scrappage scheme.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011