(Bloomberg) -- China's SAIC Motor Corp., which owns the British MG sports-car brand, will set up a 50,000 unit assembly plant in Thailand with the Charoen Pokphand Group to build MG cars for sale in Southeast Asia.
SAIC and CP Group initially will invest 1.8 billion yuan ($289 million) in the joint venture and plan to begin car sales in 2014, according to an SAIC statement. The Shanghai automaker will own 51 percent of the venture, with CP holding the rest.
The partners plan to expand annual capacity for the plant to 200,000 units, SAIC said, without giving a time frame. The automaker sold 90,035 MG and Roewe vehicles through June this year, according to its Web site.
SAIC is investing in factories outside China as it seeks to expand beyond its home market, where the automaker makes passenger vehicles through joint ventures with General Motors Co. and Volkswagen Group. China has been the largest trading partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since 2009.
SAIC took control of the MG brand through a merger with Nanjing Automobile Group Corp., which bought the British brand and other assets for 604 million yuan in 2005 after UK group MG Rover Group Ltd., went bust.
MG was founded in 1924 near Oxford, becoming known for two-seater sports cars including the MGA, Midget and MGB, which ceased production in 1980 after the company was bought by the precursor of Rover Group as the UK car industry consolidated.
SAIC has spent about half of the 45 billion yuan that it has earmarked for r&d through 2015 for all its brands, including joint venture projects with GM and VW, according to an Aug. 14 statement on MG's Web site.
CP Group, controlled by billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, has investments in industries including automotive parts, food, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and property development.