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Chinese owner of iconic MG car brand to build Europe plant




China's largest car manufacturer SAIC Motor says it will build its first factory in Europe, after sales of its vehicles on the continent jumped.


The state-controlled company - which owns the iconic MG brand - says the new plant will produce electric vehicles.


However, a spokesperson told the BBC that SAIC has not yet decided whether MG models would be made at the site.


MG, which has roots dating back over a century, was made in the UK until production was moved to China in 2016.


On Thursday, an SAIC spokesperson told the BBC that the firm was still in the process of securing a site in Europe and finalising other details about the project.


"We have many brands including MG, IM and Maxus. We are still deciding which will be built at the factory," the spokesperson added.


Sales of its vehicles outside China surged by 40% in the first three months of the year, according to SAIC.


The MG brand accounted for the majority of overseas sales, as the number of the cars sold in Europe more than doubled in the same period, the company said.


The latest announcement comes almost seven years after SAIC halted MG assembling at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham.


In 2016, MG said assembly in the UK was no longer "required" and that cars would arrive in the country "fully built (and) ready for distribution".


The Longbridge plant built cars including MG and the original Mini. It was set up in 1906 and survived World Wars One and Two.


In the years that followed, the site fought off post-war economic depression and the emergence of the motor industry abroad.


It also recovered from strike action, mergers, takeovers and drops in its share value.


Production at the plant was halted after MG Rover collapsed in 2005. The brand was eventually bought by SAIC.


In 2011, the MG6 was launched. It was the first MG car in 16 years to be assembled at Longbridge.


The five-seater vehicle was designed in the UK but its parts were made in China.


Chinese carmakers - including SAIC, Geely and Great Wall - have seen their market shares grow in recent years.


Exports from China have been boosted by the demand for electric vehicles and sales to Russia as many Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine.


China exported more than a million vehicles in the first three months of this year, official figures show. As a result it overtook Japan as the world's biggest exporter of cars.


As well as its manufacturing plants in China, SAIC also has production facilities in Thailand, Indonesia, India and Pakistan.


The Chinese firm, which has joint ventures with German motor giant Volkswagen and US car maker General Motors, sold 5.3 million vehicles globally last year.


Europe was its largest overseas market with more than 100,000 vehicles sold, according to SAIC.

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