The smart roadster and coupe is going back into production – in Wales. Twelve months from now, reworked versions of the car which smart stopped building last year will be rolling off a new assembly line, probably in South Wales. News of the multi-million pound plan was revealed yesterday at the British International Motor Show, in ExCeL, London.
Project Kimber, which 12 months ago on 22 July lost out to Nanjing Automobile Company to buy the rights to MG, will now go ahead with their version of the small two-seater. The news was broken by the chairman of the Welsh Automotive Forum, Prof. Garel Rhys, during a conference at ExCeL for International Business Day.
Sponsored by International Business Wales, the investment arm of the Welsh Assembly Government, the day’s events were overshadowed by the Project Kimber announcement. Project Kimber has a memorandum of understanding with smart to take over the car and restart production and is now seeking investors as it moves towards firm contracts on the deal.
Before it could move, however, it needed a production base and looked at two sites in Germany and a third in the West Midlands but these were beaten by the financial, practical, training, research and development assistance IBW provided through its niche vehicle cluster. Once everything is in place, Project Kimber anticipates starting production early next year and make about 8,000 cars, which means it will need initially approximately 150 employees.
Andrew Davies, Welsh Assembly Government enterprise minister said, “We welcome the decision that Wales is their location of choice” and added that the investment would benefit from a mature infrastructure and would be fully supported by the creation of a niche-vehicle cluster of resources and expertise.”
Professor Rhys said, “This particular investment is well founded because it is based upon a proven product originally developed and made by one of the world’s foremost automotive companies.It is clear that the care and attention given by Project Kimber to this development means that it has every chance of even greater success in the future.”
SMMT chief executive Christopher MacGowan added, “This is very encouraging news for Wales and the British motor industry. Although the industry faces challenging times, there are still many reasons to shout about the success of automotive manufacturing in this country.”
To contribute to a discussion on the Smart Roadster and Coupe Back in Production click here