Blog : Will MG’s slow boat to Europe hit Hinkley Point or the Brexit rock?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Clive Goldthorp

roewe_360_4
Roewe’s biggest seller is the recently-launched 360, unavailable in Western Europe

Richard Williams makes a number of very valid points about SAIC Motor’s current UK operations in his excellent and well-considered article, Blog: MG – more jam tomorrow…, and has certainly prompted an interesting debate among AROnline’s readers. However, Richard’s conclusion that, ‘sadly, based on the evidence to date, I really do not think that MG has a chance in the UK,’ will have an even louder resonance with at least some other seasoned observers of the UK-based Automotive Industry when set in the context of a story in the August, 2016 issue of Automotive News Europe’s E-Magazine, which was written by UK Correspondent Nick Gibbs and headlined MG’s planned mainland Europe sales start in doubt after UK’s vote to quit EU.

Gibbs observed that ‘MG Motor has struggled for years to convince UK buyers to take a chance on the Chinese-owned brand. Now it has a new problem: Britain’s exit from Europe. Brexit could hit MG’s already long-delayed plan to expand sales into mainland Europe, which was scheduled for 2018 – until Britain voted to leave the EU in June,’ and then added this quote from MG Motor UK’s current Head of Sales and Marketing, Matthew Cheyne: ‘The Brexit vote has thrown all immediate plans into doubt until a new trade agreement with Europe is negotiated.’

Guy Jones, Cheyne’s immediate predecessor, always publically maintained that SAIC Motor would not re-launch MG in Europe until the company was able to offer both potential consumers and prospective retailers a full range of competitive models. AROnline understands that such a range of models would have been in place by 2018. MG Motor UK has, of course, just launched the GS C-segment crossover in the UK while our colleagues at Autocar and Auto Express have recently reported that a smaller B-segment crossover will be previewed in near-production-ready form at the London Motor Show in 2017 before hitting the showrooms later that year. The SSA (SAIC Scalable Architecture?) upon which both the GS and the Nissan Juke-rivalling B-segment crossover are based should also underpin a larger crossover/SUV to compete with the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Nissan X-Trail as well as the forthcoming Renault Koleos and Skoda Kodiaq.

However, AROnline’s own research suggests that, in addition to those three crossovers/SUVs, MG Motor UK’s original plan was to launch a thoroughly-facelifted version of the primarily Chinese-market MG5, which will feature the turbocharged 1.5-litre SGE engine and six-speed transmission from the new GS, here in late 2016/early 2017. That information, which has come from several independent sources, would seem to gain some credibility when one remembers that MG Motor UK and Triple Eight Racing’s current contract for the British Touring Car Championship covers both 2017 and 2018 – the MG5 will presumably be lighter than the now discontinued MG6 and an NGTC version of the former, with all the latest RML-developed kit and the new TOCA engine, should be a more competitive proposition. Meanwhile, based on the fact that the UK-market MG6 had a five-year lifecycle, commercial logic would suggest that either an all-new or, at least, heavily-revised MG3 B-segment supermini will be launched either before or during 2018.

Some of the four new models mentioned above may, of course, be too far down the development and engineering path to justify calling a halt to any plans for UK launches, but what of Europe? Matthew Cheyne’s emphasis on the importance of negotiating a new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) must be a concern – especially if anyone has noted the unequivocal assertion from EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, that “first you [the UK] exit then you negotiate” and been following ITV Political Editor Robert Peston’s recent Facebook posts

Peston states that, if any new UK-EU FTA was based on World Trade Organisation terms, then all cars and their components would be subject to a 10.0 per cent tariff (Peston rounds the actual figure up from 9.8 per cent). However, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has very clear guidelines for FTAs and many EU-based OEMs have been calling for the maintenance of tariff-free trade between the UK and the EU since the day after the EU Referendum vote.

FTAs are, of their very nature complex and, therefore, time-consuming documents to negotiate – unfortunately, even though Chinese corporate philosophy favours a long-term approach to both relationships and business development, time may no longer be on MG Motor UK’s side. The Art. 50 TEU negotiations can take up to two years (or longer if the other 27 Member States agree) so any post-Brexit FTA deal between the UK and the EU may not be concluded for, at least, several more years after that – in short, using the Canada-EU FTA (CETA) as a worst-case scenario, a new UK-EU FTA might not be completed and, if necessary, ratified by the remaining Member States until, say, 2024 or 2025 at the earliest.

However, the uncertainty about when and, if so, on what terms a UK-EU FTA might be concluded may not be the only factor with a potentially negative influence on MG Motor UK’s future – new Prime Minister Theresa May’s unexpected decision to press the pause button just hours before the scheduled official announcement of the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station deal prompted this comment from the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming: ‘If Britain’s openness is a condition for bilateral co-operation, then mutual trust is the very foundation on which this is built. Right now, the China-UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture. Mutual trust should be treasured even more. I hope the UK will keep its door open to China and that the British Government will continue to support Hinkley Point – and come to a decision as soon as possible so that the project can proceed smoothly.’

How might a Theresa May-led Government’s decision to withdraw from the Hinkley Point C deal be perceived by the Chinese Government and how might that impact on SAIC Motor’s plans for the UK and Europe? Remember also that, although SAIC Motor is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the parent company, SAIC Group, is owned by the Shanghai Municipal Government and so effectively state-controlled…

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Group’s (HMG) plans to reposition the Kia brand as a more performance-orientated one in Europe are yet another factor which may make the task of re-launching the MG marque there still more difficult.  Auto Express Chief Columnist, Mike Rutherford, recently interviewed HMG’s Head of Vehicle Test and High Performance Development, Albert Biermann. Biermann, who was previously Vice-President Engineering at BMW M Automobiles, told Rutherford that Kia’s current product range was founded on three pillars: good value, great warranties and ever-improving vehicle designs.

Biermann then added: “‘Our next pillar – and we see it as a strong one – will be driving performance to match the appearance of our cars.” That very clear statement of intent should resonate loudly with everyone involved in the sales and marketing of MG both here in the UK and in China – in short, for many potential consumers, Kia’s four pillars pretty much define the space in the market which MG should rightfully be occupying.

That said, some positive news has emerged from Longbridge in the last few weeks – a fifth engine test facility, costing £1.2 million, has recently been installed at the site – vehicle emission testing on a rolling road was previously out-sourced, but now SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre’s (SMTC UK) Engineers can carry out the required tests in the correct temperature controlled environment with full emission measurement capability on an in-house basis. Moreover, SMTC UK has also embarked on a Recruitment Campaign and a total of 20 vacancies are currently listed on the company’s website.

roewe_950_2
Roewe 950 has taken over where the old Rover 75-based 750 left off – it’s not flying out of the showrooms

Mind you, on the other hand, a snapshot of SAIC Motor’s MG and Roewe sales data for China from July, 2016 might suggest to some that the two brands still face a tough task if they are to achieve any significant and sustainable increases in market share there. Here are the figures:

MG/Roewe Sales in China: July, 2016*

  • Roewe 360 5867
  • Roewe 350 3005
  • Roewe E550 2065
  • Roewe 550 606
  • Roewe RX5 1620
  • Roewe W5 337
  • Roewe E50 12
  • Roewe 950 100
  • Roewe E950 810
  • Roewe Total: 14,422 (+133%, 6194)
  • MG GS 3907
  • MG3 1178
  • MG GT 505
  • MG6 5
  • MG5 1
  • MG Total: 5596 (-5% 5892)
  • Combined Total: 20,018

Indeed, perhaps some indication of the scale of that task might be provided by this anecdotal evidence – whilst he was visiting the UK last weekend, a Beijing-based, British-Chinese Motor Racing contact of AROnline’s asked me what had happened to MG Car Club China. He had, apparently, been attempting to telephone the MGCC China for about a month and so, when he was next in Shanghai, he drove out to the Club’s purpose-built premises only to find that they seemed to have been ‘shuttered-up’ for some time…

Anyway, in summary, Matthew Cheyne and his colleagues at Longbridge clearly have some challenging decisions to make about MG Motor UK’s mid-to-long-term future during the coming months – decisions which may also be influenced by events which are outside their control both here and in China. Here’s a question, though: would the majority of AROnline’s readers – even those who have been critical of the company in the past – be saddened if the MG marque was to follow in the steps of Chevrolet, Daihatsu and Proton by withdrawing completely from the UK and Europe?

[Editor’s Note: *This sales data was sourced from the MGUK.org Forum and was, we believe, originally published on Matt Gasnier’s well-respected BestSellingCarsBlog.]

Clive Goldthorp

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

145 Comments

  1. I’m not sure what this blog is trying to tell us? Given that MG don’t assemble cars or parts at Longbridge, nor even PDI them there, I fail to see a concern over not selling in Europe?

    In addition, the technical facility in Longbridge carries out engineering at China’s request for the Chinese market. So how would not starting to sell in Europe effect the status quo there? Engineering for Britain came a distant second.

    A sound engineering facility in Longbridge remains a sound engineering facility, regardless of EU membership. Or were SMTC after a European grant?

    Could this just be yet more Brexit/Remain scaremongering?

    • Lord Sward,

      Well, to answer the entirely fair and reasonable question which you have posed at the end of your above comment, the object of the article was simply to give some context to the quote from MG Motor UK’s current Head of Sales and Marketing, Matthew Cheyne, in the Automotive News Europe E-Magazine story by outlining the various political and other factors which might impact on SAIC Motor and/or MG Motor UK’s current plans to re-launch the marque in Europe.

      However, irrespective of how we all voted in the EU Referendum, every UK citizen should surely have a clear understanding of both exactly what Brexit will really mean and what will be involved in implementing the decision.

      The interview with former Cabinet Secretary and now Crossbench Peer Lord Gus O’Donnell, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last Saturday morning seems, to me at least, to be an informed and independent insight into the extent of the task now facing his former colleagues in the Civil Service – the clip starts at 01:33:45 and ends at 01:41:52.

    • I agree with that analysis of the situation, Lord Sward. I suspect that, much like UK-market MGs are now, any EU ones would have been sourced from China and distributed from local distribution centres in the particular country so wouldn’t touch British soil. Hence, Post-Brexit uncertainty and tariffs would not be a barrier to MG’s entrance to Europe in that particular scenario.

      MG have talked about entering the European market since the days of the TF and have suggested that each particular new product launch would spearhead that. I seem to recall that the MG6 diesel was the first product that was meant to do that, then it was the MG3, then the GS and now it’s the forthcoming Juke rival. Placed in that particular context I’m not sure how serious they have ever been about it and Matthew Cheyne is just a man looking for an excuse.

      I think if there is to be any effect upon MG from Brexit – and it is very early days yet so we cannot be certain what way things will go – it will be in the UK market. If that slows down it will no doubt have an effect upon their ability to meet the highly (over?) ambitious growth targets they have in place.

      • Ebeneezer,

        You make a valid point in the first paragraph of your above comment.

        However, my article was intended as a follow-up to Richard Williams’ Blog: MG – more jam tomorrow… piece in which he concluded that, “sadly, based on the evidence to date, I really do not think that MG has a chance in the UK.”

        I guess the question to be posed here, then, is this: if, as Richard suggests, MG had little chance of succeeding in the UK before the EU Referendum, then how might the result affect the company’s future plans for both the UK and Europe?

        Anyway, whilst I agree that “it is very early days yet so we cannot be certain what way things will go”, as evidenced by Matthew Cheyne’s comment, the UK’s vote to leave the EU has certainly caused MG Motor UK to re-evaluate the viability of those plans.

  2. The MG GS is entirely imported from China anyway, and the MG3 has a UK local content of 5%(?) so tariffs between the UK and EU are of little significance

    A deal will be done, however BREXIT is finalised. It’s FAR more important for the rest of our car industry anyway, and Europe’s.

    To take one example, BMW sell loads of 1, 2 and 3 series in the UK, most of which have 4 cylinder engines built in Hams Hall. Imagine the nightmare if there were tariffs to export the engines to Germany, and then tariffs to import the finished cars back to the UK!

  3. Hinkley Point is definitely going ahead, staff have been brought over from France to continue with the development of the site, all of which have been told it is work as usual, if a little delayed.

    The Brexit financial side will take a few years to sort out – initial estimates were 5-7 years before the full separation would be complete – so there are no issues with expansion and, in reality, it would be advisable to get the range up and running before the final deals are complete.

    I can see that those who decided to leave will now not take responsibility for the boobs-up that is happening now – well, you made you bed, now you have to sleep in it, and the rest of us that wanted to stay in Europe will no doubt be paying for it for years to come.

    • I’m sure Mrs May will be fascinated to read of your assurance that Hinkley Point is going ahead. How fortunate we all are to have your hand on the tiller at this difficult time.

      • I am sure your sarcasm is a accepted too, not. I spoke at length with one of the key engineers who was brought over from France, he married one of my best friends from school, and he has already been tasked with moving forward with the technical aspect of the build, and the builders have all been put on notice to be ready to move within 7 days notice.

        So, regardless of what you say, I would take more notice of someone who is actually on site everyday, working for the company that is going to build it, than a random poster that thinks it amusing to to be sarcastic.

        • But it’s not up to the company and I think the politics of this both with in the company and out are far from played out.

          Personally, I believe not going ahead is the only sensible decision for all parties involved, and really hope your friend is misinformed.

  4. Cheyne, and his equally clueless boss Wang, are just going to use Brexit as a convenient excuse for when they finally admit assembly has permanently ended at Longbridge and they are having to make people redundant – ignoring the fact that this has been the plan for around 18 months.

    • I think it’s the same with this plan to export Europe. There hasn’t been any such plan for years but MG fans in Europe keep asking them about it so they now have an excuse for saying there’s no plan. The real reason is, of course, that they know they will fail in Europe.

      Their great export drive has been talked about for 8 years and hasn’t even reached Ireland yet…

  5. The comment about the MG5 is interesting. I am not sure that there would be much sense in introducing an unsuccessful five-year-old design here even if it would allow them to continue in the BTCC with a current model.

  6. “MG Motor UK’s original plan was to launch a thoroughly-facelifted version of the primarily Chinese-market MG5.”

    Well, I’m back after a few weeks’ absence!!

    Clive, when I was getting my MG3 serviced at Longbridge in early July, I’m certain I spotted a disguised MG5 out on test.

  7. MG would sell a lot more cars if they had more engine options. Their rather thirsty 1.5 petrol turbo isn’t attractive in a sector where diesel and hybrids are popular, and normally-aspirated petrol engines are the range starter.

    • You are aware Nissan sells hundreds of thousands of 1.2 Turbo 4 cylinder Petrol engines in Europe every year aren’t you?

      And you are aware the MG6 was available in both petrol and diesel and yet it resolutely failed to sell?

      In which case, I fail to see your point.

      • I agree that small displacement turbos are increasingly the norm – VAG as well as the Nissan example you cited. But Glenn’s basic point is surely still valid… The engine range offered by MG is crap.

  8. Hard to get enthusiastic about Chinese imports, isn’t it? What’s the passion I don’t get it. MG Rover, yes… this MG no.

    MG is just a badge applied to Chinese-built cars which should have a Roewe badge on. For every MG bought, that’s another British-built car not bought.

    Please look at certain models from the likes of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, JLR, Mini, Infiniti and the rest and buy British-built cars. These manufacturers can make a real success of British manufacturing – MG can’t.

    • It is remarkable, isn’t it, that a company which we are continually being reminded is in the Fortune 500 is so inept when it comes to MG? They make millions, successfully building cars with their western partners, VW and GM, from which they generate their substantial corporate wealth and, supposedly, buying power.

      You are right – there is no passion behind the present MG offerings and, design and engineering team besides, there is much less British in these products than many Nissans and Toyotas. A sad state of affairs…

      • Absolutely agree, Pete. You might as well stick an MG badge on a Kia and convince yourself that you’ve got an MG with all the MG heritage that goes with it. Not convinced? Well, neither are most car buyers in the UK, hence the appalling sales figures.

        If they can’t sell these vehicles in Britain, save to a handful of well-meaning but ultimately deluded MG die-hards, they must realise by now they have absolutely zero chance of selling them in the EU. Brexit is, as far as I can see, irrelevant.

  9. My son has just returned from a three-week holiday touring China with his partner – Great Wall, Terra Cotta Army, the whole sheebang.

    He reckons one in 30 cars seen there was a Roewe. Saw several Streetwise and at least one MG ZT. Took over a thousand images including some of cars seen.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Chinese are no mugs. Picked up the remnants of the hugely-asset-stripped former massively asset-rich Rover Group for peanuts – once, that is, the Bavarian outfit had cherry-picked, retained or sold off all they wanted.

    Since MG China first started selling MG cars here in the UK no way have they ever shown that the UK or even the European Car Consumer Market was ever high on their list of world markets. Rightly so. That is the correct decision. Here in the land of the self-inflicted, anything with the names Rover or MG are still regarded by car consumers as bad news. Wrongly so in my opinion based on my experience both within the trade and as a car consumer – be that private purchases or company cars choices.

    Our media played a huge part in this misconception with Clueless Clarkson at the spearhead of the media poison. That media poison for well over two decades at least had its near permanent effect. Unlike one EU member I could mention, the other European Car Manufacturers have always and will continue to look after their own and make things very difficult for the Chinese to vend their automotive product on the mainland – rightly so.

    It will take at least another generation before that poison has largely dissipated sufficiently for the Chinese to ever take the UK Car consumer market more seriously. They are no mugs and know this. They car afford to be patient whilst selling their product to the ROTW (Rest of the World).

    ROTW… something we, as a nation, must now take far more seriously since the right decision was taken by the majority on June 23rd. That was a sure sign that we as a nation no longer wish to be treated as mugs by a parasitical Union in steady decline.

    Should the patient Chinese with the longer term in mind, ever consider the time is right to take the UK car consumer market more seriously, I cannot think of any reason why they will not be successful. After all, sixty years ago the majority of UK car consumers would never think of buying a Japanese car. They had their reasons. Correction – not the majority, all would never buy Japanese. As a small boy, when asked what my favourite car was, when I told folks it was a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gull Wing I was almost instructed to wash my mouth out with carbolic soap. How come? Most adults had the wide range of negative WWII experiences still vividly fresh in their minds. Nothing lasts forever.

    Anyway, in the past two years, I have bought two MG ZT 1.8T cars from traders who wanted rid because both p/x cars had the “They all do that” so called Cylinder Head Gasket “Failure”. Neither did – Both were losing coolant leading to overheating due to other wear and tear items. I mention this to illustrate the level of “poison” within not just the knee-jerk mindset of the trade but, equally importantly, across the whole of the UK car consumers’ community.

    To further illustrate the point, over the past decade or so, I have bought nine MGs and Rovers where either the trader had wrongly diagnosed “HGFs” or private owners without under the bonnet “nous” having no option but to take the professional advice to either expensively repair or get rid as their poor car has the “They all do that” so called HGF. None of those nine cars had cylinder head gasket damage. The coolant loss and overheating were due to other wear and tear items.

    Finally, those nine included one O-Series, four T-Series (Turbocharged Rover 620ti) and four K-Series. In my now considerable experience, given reasonable levels of maintenance as recommended by all manufacturers, both the O-Series and T-Series Turbocharged Rover engines are as reliable as anything produced by so called superior manufacturers of the time. My son’s work-horse Rover 620ti is now showing north of 216,000 miles.

    More recently, I have transplanted a Chinese-built MG6 1.8T engine into an MG ZT-T. The Chinese product has a range of improvements both obvious and less so, which the poor folks up at Powertrain for various reasons were never allowed to do.

    It’s what we do. Just maybe, since June 23rd, make that “It’s what we did”!

    The new Tory Leader has been saying the right things where UK manufacturing and ROTW markets are concerned – she has impressed ever watchful me. That makes a refreshing change. I live in hope.

    • If MG UK resumed assembly and didn’t export to the EU, what ROTW market would you anticipate that it would export to?

      • If being the operative word here, Andrew. It ain’t going to happen for reasons given previously – most certainly not in the immediate future…

    • The K-Series casts a long shadow. My 218SLDT had a Peugeot engine (XUD) but, when I said it was leaking water, my very intelligent and well-informed brother said “the K-Series is notorious for that.” Actually, the XUD engine is well known among eBay surfers for water pump failure; but somehow, mud seems to stick to British products more easily than it does to French products.

      • Almost every engine has its faults – even the Germans. The modern BMW diesels are regarded by many in the trade as a ‘soft’ engine, the 1.4 VW engine eats pencil coils – and even Japanese cars – the 1.8 VVTi oil sludge issue, 6-cylinder Supra engines blew head gaskets, even Honda VTECs have an Achilles heel in the Siemens main relay (albeit an easy fix!).

  10. According to the July sales figures, MG sold a massive 1 MG5 in July – possibly it sells well in export markets but otherwise why waste time upgrading it? How does the GT relate to the 6 – it seems to be a model that has crept in under the radar? When did the MG7/Roewe 750 cease production?

    JLR is claiming a Q2 £250million profit hit due to Brexit/adverse exchange rates but I am not sure their numbers stack up.

    If MG are serious about entering the European market then the Irish Republic would appear to be an obvious stepping stone? Geographically I would expect other European markets to be the former Soviet-bloc countries where the Chinese have a presence already.

    MG might be constantly being knocked but they’re not the only Chinese manufacturer struggling in advanced Western markets – Qoros seems to have almost disappeared and Great Wall in Australia is having a second attempt.

    Are the MGs now sold in the UK Chinese or Thai imports?

    • The MG GT is the saloon version of the MG5 (fitted with a 1.4 Turbo engine developed with GM) so probably further fragments the low sales of the MG5 and MG6s.

      UK market MGs are sourced from China now though I suspect their expansion in Thailand might see that change.

    • MG6 GT is the hatchback variant of the 6, Magnette is the saloon variant that was withdrawn from the UK market first, as small saloons don’t sell well.

      From what I can find, the MG7 seemed to be discontinued in 2013, though the Roewe 750 seems to still be on sale (and badged as MG7 in South America).

      The imports to Longbridge seem to be knockdown kits that are assembled for domestic sale.

      The Irish market would probably have embraced the MG6 saloon a bit better than the UK, and the Irish have always had an open mind for far eastern cars – you’ll see a lot of Carinas and 4 door Corollas for example. Though a lot of manufacturers lump the two markets together, some sell bespoke small saloons such as Renault Fluence, Opel Astra, Nissan Tiida etc.

  11. “Gibbs observed that ‘MG Motor has struggled for years to convince UK buyers to take a chance on the Chinese-owned brand.'”

    Not so much struggled to convince, more have barely tried to convince…

  12. “Here’s a question, though: would the majority of AROnline’s readers – even those who have been critical of the company in the past – be saddened if the MG marque was to follow in the steps of Chevrolet, Daihatsu and Proton by withdrawing completely from the UK and Europe?”

    Well, I would certainly be saddened. It would represent another (the final) chapter of failure in the story of BL and all the smaller companies since.

    Yes, I know MINI and JLR are hugely successful brands which were once part of BL. As I’ve said before though, to me MG Rover was the real link to BL and MG UK emerged from its collapse.

    • Some would be saddened, myself included, but not all, far from it.

      Still fresh in my mind back in April 2005 are the number of posts on various car enthusiasts websites from folks actually expressing pleasure when the receivers were called in at Longbridge eleven years ago. I suspect they were mainly from those employed within the industry by the foreign manufacturers allowed to set up here under very favourable and advantageous conditions and finance arrangements.

      • I was sad to see the demise of MG Rover in 2005 and really angry that the Labour Government of the day allowed it to happen bearing in mind their previous bluster and criticism over the collapse of UK manufacturing.

        However, the disappearance of the current so-called MG wouldn’t be sad, it would simply be irrelevant. I’m not particularly interested in Chinese cars, the same as I’m not particularly interested in Korean cars. I might as well be bemoaning the passing of Zanussi washing machine imports.

        • Nige,

          So what is relevant?

          Does the sight of UK roads and car parks infested with massively high levels of German and French automotive product fill your heart with delight?

          It sickens me. One of the two things most Brit car consumers really excel at doing: buying foreign automotive product. World Chumpions with the added bonus of exporting. Yes, exporting not just jobs, but, more importantly, careers. Having leased that new BMW at considerable cost, then in the next breath, they bemoan the fact that there is such a paucity of choice for decent careers, let alone jobs for their offspring.

          The other thing? Allowing so much of our infrastructure, national assets including asset-rich companies like the former Rover Group, and just about anything resembling the Nation’s family silver to be sold off, spiv-like cheap, into alien ownership and control. It really does make sense.

          The lack of concern for such negative aspects here and elsewhere in the Nation defies belief and explains much of where this Nation excels… at getting far too many important things … wrong!

          • What is relevant to me is the manufacture of vehicles in the UK. For decades we demonstrated, as a nation, that we are largely incapable of providing effective management in car manufacturing.

            It’s clear from watching relevant car manufacturers in the UK ie JLR, MINI, Honda, Toyota and Nissan that, when companies are properly funded and workers are provided with strong, engaged management, we can produce world-class cars.

            That is relevant to me.

            MG Rover, BL, BMC, Chrylser UK, Rootes, Ford UK, Vauxhall and all the others suffered from a combination of political meddling, militant unions, poor management, under-funding, lack of investment, all contributing to a spiral of decline.

            I don’t see how an MG-badged Chinese import bares any relevance to the above hence the comment about washing machines – washing machines are not relevant and neither are MGs.

      • We’re good at building things (although expensive) and excellent at designing things. Unfortunately, we have been absolutely awful at management since about 1950. From car manufacturers to football clubs to large department stores to energy companies, we either sell-out on the cheap or go bust. A crying shame but fully deserved and I’m not sure Brexiteers have realised this yet.

    • Chevrolet Europe was a result of GM not having a clue – introduced as a budget marque when they were trying to push Vauxhall-Opel upmarket, yet ended up poaching too many sales from that marque.

      “We believe this is a win for all of our brands here in Europe and around the globe as GM will benefit from a stronger Opel/Vauxhall,” Girsky said. Pulling Chevrolet from Europe “will help us to accelerate progress in the region,” he said.

      It never quite went away and still lives on in the model range, the Mokka and Antara were co-developed with the Chevrolet marque in mind, the Viva/Karl is a rebadged Chevrolet Spark (and could be the thorn in the side of the Corsa, which has reportedly declining sales – not surprising, as the current model is a lazy rebody of the old one).

      Yet Renault managed to introduce a budget marque successfully – one that, with shared dealers, gave oppurtunities to “upsell” to similar main-marque models (Sandero? Have a look at our Clio. Duster? Have a look at our Captur/Kadjar/Koleos).

      Daihatsu sold 170 cars in the UK in 2010, its last full year, a figure which makes MG look good. Though if they had a model that could be marketed here, parent company Toyota would do the job – many of their domestic models are cross-badged between the two (Daihatsu Altis anyone?).

      Proton do actually seem to be alive in the UK – surprisingly!! Though their model range looks not to have changed in the past decade, made up of Gen2, Satria Neo and Savvy hatchbacks. No crossovers, which seem to be a pre-requisite for any manufacturer now. However, given that they use a lot of Mitsubishi mechanicals, and that particular manufacturer mostly sells SUVs and crossovers, surely they could make an arrangement? And their dealer network looks to be made up of backstreet garages – probably great local ‘family-owned’ service, but not when everyone is looking to go to out of town retail park glass-and-steel multi-franchise showrooms.

      • Chevrolet Europe’s demise was due to a deal with the German trade unions and not the inability of GM to manage multiple brands.

        Corsa sales are only down 2.3% this year so far (Jan-June 2016: 149,873 v 2015: 146,376.)

        The Viva/Karl fits below the Corsa so in the Adam segment but is downmarket of that model. The Viva would have been better with a Chevrolet or Daewoo badge but GM felt the deal with the unions to exit Chevrolet from Western Europe was worth issues such as this.

    • MG UK is a minuscule part of what was BL, or even the Rover Group.

      Cowley and Swindon are with BMW, along with Hams Hall (which would have replaced the Longbridge engine plant) while Solihull and Gaydon are with JLR.

      It’s only Longbridge which has been lost. Very sad, but it was 11 years ago that it effectively died after a painful struggle.

      • In fairness, other parts of BL have been lost. The bus division in Workington was closed by Volvo, the attractive ex-Wolseley LDV factory in Birmingham was closed when SAIC acquired the IP and moved it to China. On the other hand, as you say, JLR and BMW have successor engine plants in the Midlands.

        • The growth of Alexander Dennis and Wrights more than compensates for Leyland Bus.

          The loss of LDV was sad, but hardly SAIC’s fault, as the company was too small to compete and the product not good enough. From a UK point of view the loss of the Southampton Transit plant was probably just as significant, though ironic (from a Brexit point of view) as the work went to Turkey, which isn’t in the EU!

  13. Proton are certainly not alive in the UK – at least not for the sale of any new cars to customers.

    The Savvy and GEN-2 have long since ceased production, the GEN-2 based Persona saloon hangs-on in their home market now as a one-version only choice due to still-strong sales, but was meant to be replaced by the Preve saloon in 2012.

    They sell another small car, (Saga BLM, which the Aussies get) and also do a people carrier, which like the Preve and Suprima hatch, we never got here, but were supposed to at one time. That idea all stopped when the parent company pulled the plug on the UK operation.

    Proton are not tied with Mitsubishi as they were years ago and have been increasing the content of their own parts wherever possible – even the later Impians and GEN-2 from 2004 had a Proton-designed engine and manual gearboxs sourced from outside of Mitsubishi.

    Proton UK have disposed of their large import centre at Avonmouth and what little is left of the operation, (parts/technical support) is being moved back to Hethel. If they do start importing Proton models again, it is likely to be on a small-scale model wise and the cars may be badged as Lotus instead.

      • Carroll and Will,

        Well, having just checked via the Companies House WebCHeck facility, Proton Cars (UK) Limited is still trading, all the filings are up to date and the Registered Office is still given as 1-3 Crowley Way, Avonmouth, Bristol, BS11 9YR…

        However, the last reference to the introduction of a new model range in the UK appears to have been in this Auto Express article from November, 2013:

        Three new Proton cars heading to the UK in 2014, Graham Hope, Auto Express, 27th November, 2013

        The company has not issued any Press Releases since the 19th March, 2012 so quite what has happened to any plans for a UK re-launch remains unclear.

        • The main reason I’m quite well informed about the Proton UK ‘saga’ (sorry) is because I happened to be a first-time Proton customer when I bought my new Persona Ecologic back in 2009 and keep an interest in what’s going-on – or not, as has been the case in the UK for most of the time.

          Still satisfied with the car and mostly still with the friendly, but slightly ramshackle local dealer.

          That dealer stated when I asked why they had ordered as many of the ‘last’ Savvys as they ‘could get hold of’ back in 2011 – and later confirmed – they’ve been unable to order any model since early 2013.

          The other info comes from ‘insiders’ who sometimes post on the Owners’ Club, Proton’s own main website in Malaysia and car news forums based in Asia.

  14. Anyone thinking the Chinese MG will take the EU/UK car consumer market seriously anytime soon is guilty of wishful thinking.

    Note also the comment above regarding Chevrolet and the German Unions. They, along with the French, unlike another current EU Member State I could mention, look after their indigenous industries.

    When it suits, all those foreign marques set up in the UK will be gone… TATA for now like. Over the recent decades, ALL have threatened to leave … and will do so when it suits them, not us. All that, despite access to greenfield sites and massive financial inducements both overt and covert by a Government hell-bent on destroying our own indigenous industries as an effective bi-product way of dealing effectively with the UK Union problem. Remove the UK Industrial spine and sever the lifeblood of the Unions. Result! A spineless nation hell-bent on being taken for mugs by other nations who will only have their own best interests foremost.

    What of the longer term? The much longer-term future… Things will not improve overnight and everyone will have to do their bit to ensure a positive long-term outcome.

    It’s what we do – or, just maybe – DID since June 23rd. Those with only selfish, short-term, myopic negative sight since June 23rd are, or just maybe, were largely “I’m alright Jacks” – tough mammories to the rest of you clueless poorly-educated plebs voting out like wot I done.

    It’s wot we did.

  15. Filling up the ZT-T today, I spoke to the guy in the gold-coloured MG3 alongside also getting fuel. I chat to other MG drivers when the opportunity arises. Must have spoken to well over a dozen owners of Chinese MGs in that way now – MG6s and MG3s. I have yet to find anyone who is not enthusiastic about their cars. They like them.

    I have driven an MG6 and been driven in a diesel version. As modern production cars go, they go quite well. Two neighbours have MG3s and both like their purchases. If ever MG UK go higher profile with the Chinese product, getting folks to visit showrooms and try them, I wonder if more would be sold.

    Somehow I doubt it. The vast numbers of new German product I now see on local roads continues to amaze me. Is it the appeal of the product or – more likely – that ability to secure the use of one via monthly finance deals. The 3-Series is now the new “Ford” locally now.

  16. There will be no tariffs on cars, of that you can be sure. The Germans won’t let it happen because it will cost them many billions of Euros if there were to be. They alone have a $50 billion trade deficit with the UK, most of which is down to UK car buyers. Any idea that there will be tariffs – whatever EU spokesmen say – is nonsense and fanciful. Anyone in the EU who tries to impose them will be summarily removed by Merkel. Simple as that…

    • By trade deficit you mean surplus, surely? I don’t think things are simple as you suggest. Putting up trade barriers between the UK and the EU would mean UK car production moving on to the continent long term. MINI, Nissan (Renault), Ford and GM moving production out of the UK to continent would result in only one winner.

      Yes, we could stop buying cars from the EU and we could reciprocate any tariff resulting in BMWs being dearer but, if there is no actual UK production to buy, then what choice will we have. Bring back the City Rover…

    • Post-EU membership, if the UK joined the World Trade Organisation as many Brexiteers want to happen, then both the UK and EU Member States would have to impose tariffs, no ifs or buts, unless there was a formal UK-EU trade agreement.

      The EU market for cars would then be 446m and the UK market for cars 64m. So a company like Nissan would have a tariff-free market of just 64m whilst sister company Renault would have a tariff-free market of 440m. When it’s time to build the next Nissan Qashqai, where would you build it?

      The Brexit economist Patrick Minford said that Brexit would lead to the end of UK manufacturing which is a brutally honest assessment of the situation. I appreciate that a lot of the country feels that the potential benefits of Brexit far outweigh the disadvantages that Minford has outlined or they have simply not spoken to manufacturers before casting their votes. See this article on the ChronicleLive website: MPs react after Vote Leave economist admits Brexit would ‘mostly eliminate manufacturing’ from back in May.

  17. MG Total: 5596 (-5% 5892)

    I think these figures are wrong. Do you mean 50%? That’s a big drop if that is the case.

  18. Does it matter whatever happens with a Chinese car named MG? It looks like any other Japanese or Korean sedan so, no matter if it is called MG or not, it is not distinctive in any way. When the real MGs came to America they were distinctive. They were different in all ways from American cars and stood out from the other imports from Europe. Now the Chinese MG looks like everything else – plain vanilla, no fudge.

    • Well, we had Japanese cars named Rover back in the ’80s and ’90s, and most say that this was the era – of modern times – when the company was at it’s peak. The likes of R8 were a world away from ‘classic’ Rovers – P5s and the likes.

      I followed an MG3 last night (the new NI dealers seem to be doing a blinding job of selling them!) and I have to say that, while I initially thought it looked a bit Hyundai and Skoda (two previously budget brands which are working their way upmarket), up close in my opinion it does look distinctive, sharp edges, the Leon-style black numberplate surround ‘fake’ diffuser, modern rear lights etc. – a lot more distinctive than something like a Corsa.

      • The Rovers of the mid-1990s were built in Longbridge and Cowley, employing many thousands, with assistance from their partners at Honda, but the MG-badged cars of today are built by SAIC in China and shipped, complete, to the importers at Longbridge.

        I’m struggling to see the similarity here?

    • Rick asks…

      “Does it matter whatever happens with a Chinese car named MG?”

      Rick, why not ask…

      “Does it matter whatever happens with a German car named Mini?”

      Visited the massive Cowley operation recently. Very impressive. Robot City.

      Possible answer to the Mini question. Currently not all that much and when they decide for economic reasons (not just “English patient” or clever accounting wise) to up sticks and make the things more cheaply elsewhere, those massive robots will not lose their jobs. They will still want to vend their product built elsewhere here to benefit from the wider profit margins in the UK. The brainwashed will still be mug enough to buy them too, whilst bemoaning the paucity of career and job opportunities for their offspring.

      What has become of Desperate Dave and Gorgeous George since June 23rd? They failed to deliver for the interests in their Party’s paymasters. Tough mammories…

      Prior to that date both Dave and George excessively repeated how well the UK economy is doing under their stewardship and benefit from EU membership. In doing so they did the Nation no favours. The reality is something else. Our so-called friends on the EU Mainland and in Brussels must have been delighted to hear that repeated so often – and then prepared to set up ever more parasitical contribution demands from UK taxpayers to support the increasing number of failing Nation economies within the range of EU membership. No wonder those “jobs for life” MEPs got the double hump after June 23rd and when Nigel “Turkey voting for Christmas” … :)… Farage told it like it is to the seven hundred odd MEPs.

      In or out of the EU, long since previously most, maybe all, of the Foreign Car Manufacturers with plants here in the UK have threatened to leave here when it suits them and then it will be TATA to the UK.

      June 23rd was the first step in the many that will be required to regain essential control of so much of the multiplicity of factors to regain this Nation’s overall long-term well being currently beyond our control.

      Obviously having some importance, however, UK car manufacturing in foreign control is only a small part in the overall picture of the UK economy.

      We’ve been far too trusting and fair playing in a shark-infested commercial world. It has been and continues to be costly to this Nation overall.

      • Leaving the EU will hand all the ‘essential control’ you speak of to the very politicians you criticise in the paragraphs above…

        MINI moving abroad, but still selling cars over here, to ‘mugs’ with wider profit margins (how?!) is surely not a positive outcome of Brexit, is it?

        Although, like most Brexiteers, you haven’t suggested any solutions, I assume that your fanciful world involves British-owned companies making British-built products for us all to buy, and peddle abroad if lucky enough (doubtful). How well did that go last time?

        Will we be able to produce goods at realistic prices given the high wages here, which will, of course, be even higher after Brexit since we have been ‘held back’ for so long by those darn forgiengers? Will our little darlings who have gone to university to get their media degrees be happy working in factories? Or will we import working-age people from other countries as and when we need to? A bit unfair isn’t it? We’re Britain, surely we wonderful enough to stand on our own two feet!

        • Your narrow focus only sees negativity.

          Maybe you’re right after all. Due to a multiplicity of negative reasons, we Brits, as a Nation, no longer have sufficient quantities of the “Right Stuff” to not only survive but to actually thrive outside the massively parasitical womb which the EU has long since become and evolved into.

          For example, look how many of the EU Member States have both a surviving and thriving economy and therefore no need for ever larger contributions from “successful” Nations like one I could mention.

          Maybe you’re one of the “I’m alright Jacks” who actually do benefit from EU membership in some way or other. There are many others who do not and have not for far too long due to what the so-called Common Market I and many others voted for forty-odd years ago has evolved into.

          Yes, that’s it. We, as a Nation, simply are no longer good enough and look set to never be – even given unlimited time.

          Second thoughts, I do not see the UK’s long-term future that way… Just maybe you’re wrong, not me, after all.

  19. I enjoy reading this site as it’s a good reflection on the past etc and what could/should have been, but I really struggle to see what this MG brand has got to do with anything related to Rover other than the badge graphic. If they were wholly built over here then maybe, but most just come fully assembled on a boat. Sorry to be negative, but there’s nothing British about this brand.

    • Ken,

      I understand your point but, with respect, believe that a legitimate distinction can be made between a British-born brand and a British-owned brand – to say that “there’s nothing British about this brand [MG]” is to deny the marque’s British heritage.

      Moreover, my guess is that the 300 or so (mainly British) Designers and Engineers employed by SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre Limited (SMTC UK) at Longbridge would probably wish to refute your assertion.

      • The 300 or so engineers who are currently using their talents to help the Chinese to catch up and build more competitive cars for themselves.

        At the minute, we have a technological lead. When we haven’t, our own domestic manufacturers will have a much nastier problem to cope with…

        • Our “own” domestic manufacturers… that’s a larf!

          In any event, under whatever label, they already have a massive “nastier” problem as a glance at any car park filled with German and French automotive product will confirm time and again.

      • “Moreover, my guess is that the 300 or so (mainly British) Designers and Engineers employed by SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre Limited (SMTC UK) at Longbridge would probably wish to refute your assertion.”

        Well said, CG. However, that is not a guess, that is most certainly the way those folks would feel should they ever be asked. Rightly so.

        The determined failure of some folks here and in the wider UK Car Consumer community to see things as they really are defies belief for this observer of the behaviour of our fellow countryman.

        Having driven an MG6 1.8T and worked on the engine when I transferred one into an MG ZT-T, I am in familiar surroundings with Chinese MG product. I will never feel that way about the Japanese stuff from the North East, Wiltshire and East Midlands.

        Still what do I know except thanks to the lazy “foreign is best” mindset which permeates through much of the UK car consumer community to this day, it is extremely unlikely that I will ever again be able to buy a new British-built MG … or, Rover… as has been my pleasure to do so several times in the past, both privately and as company car purchases.

      • With respect, the present MG has almost nothing in common with the old MG. Its owners have even discarded the thought that MG stood for Morris Garages, instead stating that MG now stands for ‘Modern Gentleman’. In doing this, they’ve made a conscious decision to walk away from any heritage the brand may have had.

        • “Walk away” you say. They OWN the whole thing now. They can do what they like just as BMW and all the others will do and have done.

          Plus, and it’s a BIG plus, us Brits walked away from MG back in April 2005 in their dire last hours of real need. .. in their thousands as they had done so for far too long having been brainwashed on the “foreign is best ” scenario.

          Just like the nation had its brains washed in heavy oil with the Diesels are clean, Petrols are far more harmful to the environment scenario for far too long. EU directives and emissions regulations guidelines so must be kosher. VAG in a word… Those we entrust this Nation’s well-being to lapped it up WITHOUT QUESTION as they do on far too many green issues with their “make it so” stance.

          Anyone watching a Diesel being MoT tested will wonder how on earth any pass the Emissions testing. They do simply because the wrong stuff and parameters are being measured.

          • I don’t take issue with you. However, my point still stands. The owners of MG displayed nil interest in the MG heritage and walked away from it. Only belatedly has this been seen as perhaps a mistake. Attempting to resurrect a link to the MG heritage, is readily seen as a very cynical marketing ploy by anybody to whom that heritage may be important. The damage has been done!

          • So what does it stand for? That article listed above only alludes to the fact that it’s not “Morris Garages” (which is what I’ve always believed it stood for).

            In some ways, I think it is back-peddling on Mr Kimber’s part.

      • I’m sorry Clive, but you’re sounding increasingly like you’re on the payroll at Longbridge. NAC and then SAIC denied the brand’s heritage by refusing to assist all those who bought and owned MGs from when they were in either British or German hands. MG is just a western badge with vague connotations to the Chinese. Nothing more and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous all that went before. The lack of parts and technical assistance given to those with modern MGs (and Rovers) was a shameful disgrace.

        • Refusing to assist…

          So they were in good company with successive and subsequent UK Governments, not to mention those many keen to dance on the grave of Longbridge… Blaming the Chinese for the way things turned out is your choice. The real blame lies elsewhere.

          It’s what we… did.

          • Do try to read the point being made. Getting assistance from BL/ARG/Rover Group/MGR used to be easy. You get nowt now from MG.

        • Lord Sward,

          Well, in response to the first sentence of your above comment and as a matter of record, here is an outline of my approach when writing for AROnline – Blogs (opinion pieces), News or News Analysis articles – and, indeed, elsewhere:

          1) Establish the relevant facts
          2) When and wherever possible, support such facts with evidence – hence the use of hyperlinks.
          3) Present the facts and evidence in as clear, entertaining and objective manner as possible.

          Hopefully, AROnline’s readers can then enjoy a well-informed debate in the Comments section – most, if not all, of my interventions in any Comments section discussions are focussed on correcting any factual inaccuracies or further informing the debate with additional facts and evidence.

          My belief is that most Motoring Writers would recognise the above approach as being a professional one, but AROnline’s readers are best-placed to decide whether my articles tick the box at 3) above…

  20. I think the comments made by Matthew Cheyne are just a smoke screen to withdraw from selling cars in the UK and not expanding into Europe. SAIC/MG is not exactly getting the cars to fly off the shelves in its home country and, if they cut their losses here, they could concentrate in a smaller sphere of the world.

    As to BREXIT – we still don’t know what is going to happen. Yes, the country voted to leave the EU, however not only are we a member of the EU we are also a member of the EFTA – which basically means we could withdraw all of our political membership but still have free trade. However, to continue membership, we still will have to allow free movement of borders and pay a hefty fee (like the Norwegians) for the privilege. I would not be surprised if this is the fudge we get ourselves into, which will inflame many who only voted out to stop free border movement.

  21. @ MG John

    While you rightly complain about the Bullingdon Two (Cameron and Osborne), did Labour exactly do much for the car industry here? Rover went under, when in 2000, the company could have had a chance (less so 5 years later), while they allowed Ford and Peugeot to abandon manufacturing cars here and did little when Vauxhall closed Luton. However, had this had happened under the Tories, they would have screamed about how terrible the Tories were to let the factories close, but were no better themselves in office. Ironically, we lost as many manufacturing jobs under Labour as we did under Thatcher.

    • Well said, Glynn! Labour refused an eleventh hour loan to save Rover – it was free money to them as they never have to put right the mess that they leave – ever.

      • Not only that, Labour’s misguided action/inaction torpedoed any chance of a partnership with another manufacturer like say the one Austin-Rover-Group had with Honda which I saw as a largely successful one.

        Maybe Labour read those many posts on-line where fellow Brits were keen to dance on the grave of Longbridge and took that as an indicator of the way the whole Nation felt. After all, as a glance at any car park then as now would confirm, “foreign is best” was the Brit car consumers’ mindset – brainwashed or not.

        In any event, just another example of Brits getting important things quite simply … WRONG. There are many others. It’s what we do … or, just maybe, since June 23rd…. Did!

        By brainwashing I have in mind a neighbour telling me the reason my MG ZS bought new in 2003 is so reliable is because of it’s Honda engine. Another who, like my younger brother, sometimes castigates me for my choice of car say things like “You cannot beat German engineering and reliability, John”… However, soon after his Porsche left him stranded on the M5 with serious engine problems which cost more to rectify than I paid new for my MG ZS…. on the road.

        Last time I spoke to my brother, he told me his nice BMW will need one thousand quid plus spent on suspension renewals alone for the MoT. Been in the family since new so not neglected. He is thinking of getting rid rather than repair.

        That’s just a few examples. I’ve lost count of all the other similar “Foreign is best” stories I know of.

        It’s what we do … CORRECTION, just maybe … DID!

        Right … Monza FP1 starting on CH4 right now. Guess where most of those F1 cars with foreign names are built (rolls eyes)… Now that IS something we Brits do and did well.

        • Without a police state to bully people into buying things the fact something has a “Made in the UK” tag won’t be enough to sell things.

          Even more so in the export markets, where BL, Austin Rover etc. lost out and never regained.

        • British industrial policy since Mandelson has been focused on supporting industries and not on trying to predict individual winning companies.

          One great success, founded by a Labour peer, has been the Manufacturing Technology Centre which helps companies become better at manufacturing. It surpassed its three-year business plan in just its first year and politicians of all parties regularly visit it.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Glenn.

      Since April 2005, I have never voted Labour whereas previously I usually did and was pleased to do so. With Corbyn and his money tree economics, benefits and rights society priorities, I’m never likely to do so ever again. Those he gathers around him do not inspire one sliver of confidence in this previously Labour-voting household – more a continuing and worsening recipe for excelling at getting too many things wrong.

      In the past few years, now that Thatcher and her team of worst forms of quick-fix Tories and the resulting longer-term harm become a more distant memory, I have been pleased to see May and, to a certain extent, Cameron before her place more importance on INDIGENOUS UK Industry and less reliance on foreign ownership and control of so much essential to the UK commerce and infrastructure. I hope she keeps up that good work. It will take time, a lot of time, but nothing worthwhile on such a large scale of changes can be achieved in one day.

      All speed to them … and us.

      • Under Theresa May’s Government, the UK has lost control of its only significant tech company, ARM Holdings. It designs the chips used in mobile devices and is set to be a big player in the internet of things.

        The buyer is the debt-laden Japanese company Softbank which took advantage of the weak Pound to acquire the company for £24bn -a far cheaper price in Yen than pre-24th June. It really is an industrial tragedy which makes the overseas takeover of companies like Pilkington and Cadbury look unimportant.

        In fact, post-24th June, the UK, once known as treasure island for its overpriced cars, has become known as the bargain isle for overseas predators. Much our manufacturing is already in foreign hands but the weak Pound has recently helped the Chinese snap up Odeon Cinemas and the South Africans Poundland.

        Brexiteers may have felt that they voted to take back control. Sadly, in the loss of British ownership of our only large tech company, ARM Holdings, we have lost control of an important industry. See this BBC News article ARM founder says Softbank deal is ‘sad day’ for UK dated 18 July, 2016.

        As the FT reported on 18 July 2016, it’s not just the weakened Pound that is encouraging the sale of British companies to overseas predators. The uncertainty caused by Brexit has encouraged/forced Theresa May to waive foreign takeovers through as, post-Brexit vote, we just can’t afford to say no to foreign companies. “Mrs May promised last Monday that there would be more scrutiny of foreign takeovers, at the start of what she expected to be a bruising two-month fight for the Tory leadership against Andrea Leadsom.”

        However, within minutes of her speech, Mrs Leadsom had pulled out and Mrs May knew she would become Prime Minister. She never expected her campaign speech to be tested as government policy a week later.

        One explanation is that while, at that point, Mrs May needed to win Tory votes in a leadership contest, now as Prime Minister, she is anxious to welcome investment into Britain following the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote. See this Financial Times article Arm takeover puts focus on UK’s industrial strategy dated 18 July, 2016.

        • FWIW, I think you will find that Poundland was already foreign owned, being sold by the US equity group Advent International to the South African company Steinhoff. Given how the Pound has tanked against foreign currencies post-Brexit, including China, that and inflation must be really squeezing pound-shop margins.

          • Poundland is not US-owned, it’s a public limited company quoted on the London Stock Exchange. See this link to the latter’s website

    • Glenn, take much of an interest in the motor industry do you? Luton isn’t closed and is one of the most innovative and efficient GM plants in the world (top 9 of over 40). It underwent significant further investment in 2013/14 for the second-generation Vivaro – just so as you know, he van that is the real back-bone of Britain, not the Turkish Transit.

  22. My local MG dealers have always been quite open with regards to MG and their operations when talking to me and are perfectly happy to sell the MG3, but lost much of their appetite following the facelift MG6. They had a black 15 plate sub-1000 mile TS which took over a year to sell, had nearly £3k knocked off the asking price just weeks after they got it and were wary of people test driving it in case the bumpers got damaged, as they were a back order part from China.

    You would think they would be chomping at the bit to sell the GS but, owing to MG’s lack of parts commonality with any other models, the thing sounds like a bit of a nightmare. The MG3, 6 and GS use/d four different engines, over four different gearboxes, different clutches etc, no brake part interchangeability – hell nothing much is interchangeable, meaning they can’t keep a big stock of even common parts.

    Need an individual gearbox component? They had to either back order it from China or purchase a whole gearbox from Longbridge, no wonder dealers were awkward about getting warranty work done for customers and no wonder spares supply can be slow for Joe Public.

    The MG3 is a car they can happily deal with, it’s easy to work on and cheap to repair, plus nearly everything is avaliable in the UK so they don’t take long to fix.

    • Very interesting points… Why are they so different? From what you say, it sounds like MG should be majoring on the MG3 and providing variations in transmission and engines in preference to bringing over new models.

  23. Amazing that something Matthew Cheyne said – a bloke who seems way out of his depth – can prompt an article and 80-odd replies!

      • Lord Sword,

        Okay, perhaps, in hindsight, we should have run the above article as a News Analysis story as opposed to a Blog (opinion piece).

        However, to give you and AROnline’s other readers some insight into exactly what is involved in writing such an article, in this instance, researching, drafting and typing/uploading to our Content Management System took about eight hours in total.

        Mind you, that does not include the minor tweaks made about an hour before my admission to hospital for a hernia operation at 7:30am last Wednesday week…

    • It’s now a simpler business for Wang and Cheyne as there’s no manufacturing to worry about – just a case of selling cars and signing up dealers.

  24. MG have arrived in Cumbria, they now have a showroom in Penrith and are actively promoting the GS at local car and agricultural shows. This should have happened from the start as, prior to that, anyone who wanted an MG had to travel to Gateshead. The brand should have had a dealer in every county as 39 dealers spread thinly across the country won’t help sales. I think the GS could do quite well as its presence has been promoted a lot more than the hapless 6.

  25. Andrew’s posts are of interest because it seems to me that they insist on viewing inward investment only from the negative side of the coin. Inward investments have always been encouraged by almost all advanced economies because they increase the overall size of the economy and most particularly provide employment – which, at its most basic level, is the only real purpose of economic activity.

    If we are to object to inward investment here, how can we resist objection in other nations to, for example, the Rolls-Royce acquisition of Allison and the widespread setting up of overseas subsidiaries of major British entities such as Shell, Unilever, BP etc. (yes, I know there is a Dutch element to two of these)? That’s without mentioning the little-known fact that sizeable slabs of German manufacturers’ equity is held in Britain.

    Whilst we have to acknowledge that the bulk of British motor production is foreign controlled, the benefit is the enormous gain to the economy as a whole created by the spending power of those employed, which of course creates spending power in those who supply the employees, and so ad infinitum.

    PS I’m afraid I think the suggestion that ARM was “our only significant tech company” is hugely wide of the mark.

  26. A lot of foreign investment has benefitted the UK and vice versa. The UK, uniquely in the world, is happy to let strategic companies be acquired.

    ARM was acquired for £24bn. There is simply no other UK tech company that comes anywhere close to it in size. If you read the words of its founders, they point out that British tech companies rarely get to this size before being acquired by a larger overseas company. This is one reason why the UK has such a poor balance of trade.

    • “This is one reason why the UK has such a poor balance of trade.”

      Long term that is the killer.

      Meantime, we must feel sorry for the likes of the people of Germany, who struggle all the way to their banks with a massive trade surplus.

    • Inward investment and the purchase of controlling interests in UK companies really only affects the balance of trade to a minimal extent, if at all. The goods/services are still provided by those in the UK and sold within the UK, which has no effect, or outside the UK which is an inward flow i.e. an export. Similarly, the only effect on the balance of payments (after the initial inflow of investment) – which is, of course, different from the balance of trade – arises where dividends are paid to the overseas controller.

      • @ Christopher Storey

        “Minimal extent” and “which is, of course, different from the balance of trade – arises where dividends are paid to the overseas controller.”

        Can you please then explain why, despite those minimal effects you outline and other positive benefits, this nation still has an ongoing and worsening MASSIVELY harmful Trade Deficit?

        There again, if foreign and alien ownership and control is so overall beneficial to the UK economy, why not put a huge FOR SALE sign over the British Isles? Oh, forget briefly, Thatcher and her team of worse forms of Tories already did that selling off so much as one former Conservative Prime Minister rightly said at the time “Selling off the Nation’s family Silver” and spiv-like dirt cheap too.

        We know it makes sense…

  27. @ MG John, on his earlier comments about Labour, I voted for them twice in the past, but now would run a mile from them and their leader, who is your stereotypical middle-class Marxist, beard, humourless, economically clueless, very politically correct, stuck in the past and lives in North London. Had Comrade Corbyn not become an MP, I could imagine him being a sociology lecturer at North London Polytechnic.

    • Funny you mention that about Corbyn. There is a rather Tory-heavy, near-poisonous political forum web-site I used to contribute to regularly. It really is extreme right-wing overload with a sprinkling of lefty types who are hugely outnumbered.

      Recently, when Labour Party Membership involved a mere three quid, many of the Tory types there paid their three quid and ALL voted for Corbyn to be the leader. Many did that because they saw it as a way of ensuring that Labour will wander the political wilderness with their money-tree rights and benefits policies for as long as Corbyn is their leader and that there would be nobody anywhere within the party likely to replace him who could even present the slightest threat to the next Government or three not being Conservative.

      I see their point. I wonder what percentage of those reputed 300,000 “new” Labour members were actually covert Tories with an agenda and took full advantage of that three quid special offer… 🙂

      You couldn’t make it up, you really couldn’t…

      • Unfortunately, Labour has also got new members from young trendy types who think that the current system doesn’t work and want something different and Corbyn’s idealistic but true fully-not-workable ideals are the way forward. Most of these people have never been interested in history, so cannot see that his ideas are those that failed in the past.

  28. All this “MG’s slow boat to Europe” … “Brexit Rock” bollards discussion is a waste of time.

    All that’s needed is to ask the Chinese owners of MG why they have yet to take the European Car Consumer Market seriously let alone the UK one.

  29. MGJohn,

    Well, given that, as explained in one of my responses to Lord Sword above, researching, drafting and typing/uploading the article took me around eight hours, perhaps you might wish to re-consider your use of the euphemism “bollards”… 🙂 Anyway, from my perspective, the fact that the article has prompted a vigorous debate proves that my time was not wasted.

    However, you do make a good point in the second paragraph of your comment – if possible, perhaps now is the time for AROnline to arrange interviews with some of the key people at Longbridge…

    • I think there will a lot of interest in interviews with MG management – especially on the subject of cars being imported through Bristol, why MG has refused to acknowledge that is happening and what is the fate of the staff involved in final assembly.

        • If MG doesn’t get the interview lined up this month, it will be interesting to see what its accounts say. The accounts are due to be filed by the end of this month. They’ve been late in previous years (Filed 11/11/15, 7/10/14), but they have been quite illuminating.

          • Andrew,

            That’s interesting – especially as AROnline has access to a now-retired Management Accountant who would probably be willing to provide some professional input…

  30. MG would have done better if they had promoted the 6 a lot more, had a much bigger network and increased the British input. People then would have been more tempted to buy one.

    • Unfortunately, the 6 seemed to be the wrong product at the wrong time.

      I wonder if they eyed up Skoda’s resurgence, which after the Felicia – which was effectively a rebodied Favorit – started with the C/D-segment straddling Octavia. However, that product was seen as a big cheap fastback-hatch car stretched on a Golf chassis (ever notice the wheelbase on a Mk1?) with the then-loved SDi and TDi diesel engines.

      MG arrived with the 6 when the D-segment was effectively dying as private buyers moved to crossovers, when the C-segment was moving away from fastbacks (Seat Toledo and Skoda Rapid seem to be slow sellers) and saloons towards two-box turtle shapes, and initially offered a petrol engine when diesel was still king pre-VW-emissiongate. Even in terms of petrol engines – the engine may have been viewed with suspicion as a warmed over K-Series, when that engine was scorned by the man-down-the-pub as having an icing-paper head gasket.

      There was never, AFAIK, an automatic gearbox either – something that makes life easier both for minicabbers (one of the few remaining mainstream D-segment customers) and for ‘mature’ customers (who may have grown up with BMC/MG and seem to be driving all of the – albeit manual – MG3s I see).

      Hopefully, with the GS and the 3, they can start emulating Dacia – though that marque is helped by leveraging the existing Renault network, with much parts commonality with the parent company’s models. Locally they expanded with some family-owned former Rover dealers.

  31. Isn’t the problem with current MG the same as the problem which killed BMC/BL/Rover and much of industry in the first place?

    The problem is telling people what’s good for them rather than making what they want.

    What do I mean? Think BMC 1800 – splendid at its job, but so ugly no-one would want to buy it. Second go: the Maxi – same problems – put it against a Mk2 Cortina and which one did the public buy?

    The history of manufacturing is littered with examples – Gardener diesels – world leaders – but they didn’t like turbochargers and lighter engines, Jaguar – produce the wierd-looking S-Type and the even stranger X-Type and wonder why no one wants to buy them to name but a few. It’s not just a British problem – Peugeot had a go at it recently. European Chrysler spent a fortune on the 180 – only for it to look like a big Avenger – which didn’t do much for a prestige car.

    If the Chinese produce an MG that works reasonably well, but somehow has a ‘Wow’ factor, they’ll sell thousands. Produce something that essentially is the same as its competitors – and they haven’t got a chance.

    • Interesting that you mention Peugeot, Jeremy. Never has there been a more bland and insipid output as the current model range. I struggle to actually produce an image in my mind of a single model.

      If trade tariffs are brought into place post-exit, marques like this one, Citroen, Renault and Fiat are likely to pretty well disappear from our roads. In my opinion, they will be too expensive compared with Far Eastern-built products and do not hold the perceived desirability of the German brands.

      Perversely, I wonder if Chinese imports might have a better chance than they do currently – though, of course, they would have to be marketed effectively, which MG has proven it is completely incapable of doing.

      • Really? I had thought PSA had turned a corner with the 08 Series.

        The quirkier Citroens and Fiat 500s will probably survive with enough of the trendies buying them, but Renault is already relying on Dacia so things might be grim for them.

    • Austin 1800. Well ahead of it’s time by about half a century. Ugly and fat gut cars are now selling like the proverbial…. 🙂

      The 1800 did all that half a century ago with massive cabin space.

  32. MGJohn,

    The answer to your point about the balance of trade is that the UK ( like Japan ) has always lacked raw materials, including food, and therefore has been and will always be in a position where material imports exceed exports by a considerable margin. This is why intangible exports, such as service industry activity, are of fundamental importance to the UK despite the tendency of some people to rubbish service industry output.

    • Lacked raw materials – what? !!!! Coal, oil, gas all much more plentiful than Japan?
      Check the Balance of Trade figures for the 1950s and 1960s.

      After the Second World War, there was a push to increase food production to almost self-sufficiency. That was later eroded by the EU making it incredibly easy for French and German companies to buy up British ones and transfer production abroad.

      • Mike, I’m no longer going to bother responding to the many posts like Christopher’s here and elsewhere – they are determined to get it quite simply wrong.

        Some, like the all too lefty and pc-riddled UK state broadcaster, accuse those like me who voted OUT did so owing to lack of sufficient intelligence. Sickened to observe that the BBC is still at it – even today running true to previous poor accusative form with their “We’re ever so clever” stance so must be right and how could you unintelligent plebs possibly vote OUT.

        They yet again focused on the immigrant slant being top of the reasons for voting OUT. WRONG – the so-called British Broadcasting Corporation. Yes, BRITISH. I think they forget what those three letters stand for.

        Immigration is a HUGE problem for the UK and elsewhere. It was nowhere on my list of reasons for voting out. Top of my list was this Nation being taken for mugs year in year out and that was never what I voted for back in 1975. As their UNION of Europe model crumbles terminally with ever more worsening and increasing numbers of failing EU member economies, they will look to “successful” economies like the allegedly successful UK model to fund the failing project. Yeah right! How successful with massive National and individual debt and even larger trading deficits. UK “success” who those on the mainland and in Brussels feel is solely due to UK’s EU membership. Yeah, right. So, had the majority of those who voted voted IN and not OUT, those parasites in Brussels would then deploy more ways of making UK taxpayers cough up even more contributions to supply more life blood finance to the ever failing EU model.

        I’ve got news for all those ever so clever luvvies in the BBC, Westminster and elsewhere – this unintelligent, poorly-educated mug has long since had enough. So have those 17.4 million others who no longer wish to be taken for mugs by the EU who voted OUT it would appear.

        I’m amazed there are still so many Remainers who still don’t get it. Those Remainers – including some friends and a few relatives I discussed IN-OUT with prior to and since June 23rd – mainly voted for purely selfish reasons. “I’m alright Jacks” now mainly with no regard for their longer term well-being, let alone the Nation’s as a whole. One even told me the reason for voting to remain is because he fears it will mean his next new BMW and European (Euro) holiday will cost more.

        A glance at any car park or motorway traffic hold-up infested with with high levels of German and French cars makes me suspect that single Remainer’s view could be very widespread.

        Still, why should I give a monkey’s… I’m alright, Jack.

        Now where’s those new BMW details. I fancy a nice black 5 Series with 19″ Alloys. Three hundred quid a month should cover it. Good for the EU economy by exporting and sustaining both jobs and careers to the automotive manufacturers on the EU mainland…

  33. MG John,

    I’ll give you this, you could (just about) make a living as a comedian. I think we shall just have to agree to differ – and, notwithstanding Mike G’s observations, I stand by my statement on raw materials: our food output is wholly inadequate to feed our population; coal supplies are now non-existent; the transient supply of oil and gas are now effectively running down.

    Oh, and I was around in the 1950s, and studying economics at the time – I remember the recurrent balance of payments crises all too well, which continued in exacerbated form into the 1970s. But then, what do I know about it?

      • Since you ask, quite a lot, actually. I was not, in fact, an academic at any stage of my career, as you would find if you looked me up in Who’s Who. In the 1970s, I was Finance Director of a substantial BLMC distributor and of its holding company which had fingers in the transport and distribution pies of a number of companies throughout Europe and Africa.

      • Well, yes. The nation does need academics. And, in spite Michael Gove’s idiotic opinion, the nation needs experts – particularly so now. Quick-fire off the cuff comments now could make you a hostage to the future.

        Now, I have issues with a certain school of economics that was very popular through the 1980s and for far too long afterwards, but that we need economists there is no doubt.

        The consequences of Brexit will take a while to unwind but, at the moment, the signs are, I think, not good for the mid-to-long term.

        I’m not an economist nor an expert in anything, so what do I know? I’ll tell you – nothing. I am willing to listen to those who have studied a subject though.

        • Everybody is an economist to some degree – they have to be. However, just because someone studied when in education is no certain guarantee that their opinion based on that is more valid – often the exact opposite is the case.

          Soon after leaving my “good school” – where I then highly regarded my teachers – I got a very rude awakening. The “real” world is a whole different kettle of ball games. Those teachers were academics teaching us to be academics. My high regard for them was misplaced. They existed in a cushioned-against-reality academic world.

          I, like you, am willing to listen to those having studied the subject though. Even so, more often than not, I see things rather differently based on the best evidence available to me, that of my own ears and eyes rather than their over the top (OTT) reliance on computer programmes which sometimes say “No” or “Yes”. Look at the sudden rethinking and mind changes by those academics and economists prior to and subsequent of 23rd June. I expect that will continue.

          Fact is, no matter how clever you or they think they are, and this applies especially to all those “We’re ever so clever” media types, of which the BBC is in the spearhead, few if any know the answers and resort to guessing based on how they, not you or I, see things. Your view and mine can be just as valid as any of those. I suspect, more often than not, having read your response, you view and mine can be more accurate based on reality rather than the way those oh-so-clever types see things and report them that way.

          I watched the Labour Leader debate on BBC last night – soon lost interest. Both participants, the Chairman and most of the audience appears to be cushioned against reality. I turned over to another channel as I was convinced there was nothing to see there I do not already know.

          As the late, great Terry Thomas often aptly put it, “what an absolute shower.”

          • There is no harm challenging opinions and I often disagree with the prevailing view. Offering a different opinion and explaining why you reach that view, or why another person’s view is not acceptable to you, on a blog is fine. Simply dismissing someone because they are an academic is not sensible.

            As it happens, I think I’m right about everything! Of course I do. But whilst I am entitled to my opinion I doubt that you would want my advice when you get chest pains, but rather seek the view of your doctor and the benefit of academic research.

            And I’d suggest that it is not sensible to disparage the BBC, which is a fantastic resource. It has it faults, but some parties seek to undermine and demolish the BBC for their own purposes and are trying to create a meme that it is biased. If they get their way the BBC will be degraded or dismantled and we could end up with news organisations like Fox News in the USA – then we really will be in trouble…

  34. MGJohn,

    Your comment:-

    “…I was convinced there was nothing to see there I do not already know”

    is a very apt summary of most of your contributions to this forum. 🙂

  35. MG has announced it is to stop making cars at its Longbridge plant and will be moving production to China – ending production in the UK.

    The firm said vehicle assembly was no longer “required” and cars would arrive “fully built ready for distribution.”

    Not completely unexpected news…

  36. Stopping production will, apparently, result in the loss of a whole 25 jobs. Tough, if you’re one of the 25, but this shows the feeble extent of what represented “UK production” – presumably they just screwed the dust caps on the wheels and did a bit of PDI.

    We all know Longbridge died years ago, but today still feels like another day for sad reflection.

  37. I’m now wondering if this blog was exceptionally well timed or an unofficial leak to pave the way for the official announcement that Longbridge was to cease car assembly?

    If it was well timed, it was exceptionally so, if not investigative or questioning enough of the company in question, especially given their Brexit non-threats.

    However, my sources have indicated to me from early this March and repeatedly thoughout the year that production was to cease at Longbridge when the MG6 become illegal to register due to toxic emissions.

    It’s also illuminating that Cheyne now isn’t blaming Brexit for the ceasing of car final assembly. It’s also a shame Hinckley went ahead, so there was no way they could blame that either.

    I first commented on this blog by saying “I’m not sure what this blog is trying to tell us.” It took me a few weeks, but now I know…

    • Lord Sward,

      Well, for the record, the above article was prompted purely by me asking myself how, given the quote from Matthew Cheyne cited by Automotive News Europe’s Nick Gibbs, the outcome of the Brexit vote might impact on any plans which SAIC Motor had to re-launch the MG marque in Europe and not by an unofficial leak.

      Anyway, for me, the most significant aspect of last week’s news about the cessation of final assembly at Longbridge is that no one associated with either MG Motor UK and/or SMTC UK has, to my knowledge, as yet given any indication as to what SAIC Motor now intends to do with the facility…

      Richard Burden MP (Lab., Birmingham Northfield) has already established that the UK Government is “willing to meet MG to discuss and explore options and help that may be available” – the Chinese are reknowned for playing the long game so maybe, just maybe, what might be unfolding here are the opening moves in another round of “carefully-crafted, Chinese-backed corporate choreography…”

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