MG Motor UK : The Dealer Network’s take on the MG6 and beyond

Clive Goldthorp

Summit Garage are the first dealers to get their car back to their showroom, and here’s what they say: “Wonderful day out collecting our new MG6 and loads of people looking and pointing on the way back. Should have loads of interested customers this weekend!”

Summit Garage are the first dealers to get their car back to their showroom, and here’s what they say: “Wonderful day out collecting our new MG6 and loads of people looking and pointing on the way back. Should have loads of interested customers this weekend!”

The first customer-ready MG6 Fastback rolled off the production line at MG Birmingham yesterday and, as MG Motor UK Limited’s Dealers collected their first Demonstrators in an special mass ‘Driveaway’ event today, AROnline reckoned that now was as good a time as any to canvass the opinion of the Dealer Network on the MG6.

However, given that both Autocar and Auto Express have recently run several articles about MG’s proposed Future Product Programme, AROnline decided to put a couple of questions about MG Motor UK’s future to the Dealers as well. The articles referred to are as follows: SUV in MG launch plans, John McIlroy, News Editor, Autocar, 28 February 2011, More MGs on the way, Nick Gibbs, Acting News and Features Editor, Auto Express, 18 March 2011 and MG ‘wants a new sports car’ Matt Saunders, Deputy Road Test Editor, Autocar, 23 March 2011.

AROnline has therefore contacted a representative sample of 18 Franchised Dealers or Authorised Repairers by either email or telephone during the course of the last two weeks and put these questions to them:

Q1) Are you still MG Dealers? If not, since when and why not?

Q2) Did you or a colleague and/or any of your potential customers attend the recent MG6 Track Test at Prodrive, Kenilworth? If so, how would you rate the MG6 on a scale of 1 to 10? If, so what was the feedback from your potential customers?

Q3) How pessimistic or optimistic are you about MG Motor UK’s prospects of success between now and the end of 2015 on a scale of 1 to 10?

Q4) What next after the MG3 and, presumably, the MG5 which will reportedly be unveiled at Auto Shanghai later this month – a C-segment crossover or an MG TF successor?

A total of 14 Franchised Dealers or Authorised Repairers responded to Q1) above but two of the formers’ franchises were ending on 31 March 2011 while the Dealer Principal of another declined to speak to AROnline on the record. Kevin Clark, the Managing Director of Hampshire-based Seward Group Limited, said that the decision to end the MG franchise was a commercial one based on the fact that the range would be a limited one until late 2012 and the anticipated volumes were insufficient to justify further investment in the franchise at this stage. A spokesman for Spur Garage Limited of Hampton Court in Surrey said that the decision to terminate that company’s MG franchise had also been a commercial one and cited delays in the launch of the MG6 as a key factor.

Interestingly, all of the Authorised Repairers approached by AROnline had originally been Franchised Dealers. MG Owners’ Club General Manager, Richard Monk, said the Club-owned Advantage MG dealership had ceased to be an MG Franchised Dealer last year because the business’ rural location in Swavesey, Cambridgeshire meant that there was not a huge showroom footfall and he reckoned that the MG6 was more suited to an urban dealership. However, Mr. Monk added that Advantage MG ‘would be back in the frame if MG Motor UK launched a new two-seater roadster.’

Nine Franchised Dealers answered all the questions which AROnline posed but only five had sent a representative and/or potential MG6 buyers to the recent MG6 Track Test. However, most of the Dealer Principals concerned had either driven the MG6 or had an employee who had and so their assessment of the car on a scale of 1 to 10 was based on that feedback. The lowest score was 7 out of 10 whilst the average was 7.5 out of 10 – that said, two of the Dealer Principals approached gave the MG6 10 out of 10. The MG Dealers which had not sent either representatives or potential purchasers to the event at Prodrive, Kenilworth all cited logistical and/or scheduling issues for not doing so – one mentioned that the location of the event meant that he and any customers would probably have had a round trip of six hours…

The MG Dealers whose customers had attended the MG6 Track Test all reported that the feedback which they had received from them was,  as Laurie Collyer, the Dealer Principal of Apple MG in Gravesend, Kent, observed ‘overwhelmingly positive.’ Graham Walker, the Dealer Principal of Chester-based MG Dealer Graham Walker Limited, said that some of his customers had remarked on the fact that the MG6 was only being launched with a five-speed as opposed to a six-speed gearbox. However, having driven the car at the Prodrive facility, Mr. Walker did not think that was, in reality, an issue.

John Newey, Dealer Principal of Summit Garage (Dudley) Limited, said that all the customers who had contacted him following their attendance at the  Track Test had ‘loved the  MG6 and really appreciated the chance to drive the car in circumstances which would not be possible on the road.’ The Dealer Principal of Sterling Automotive Limited in Eastbourne, East Sussex, Patrick Warner, reported that one of his clients, who had already ordered an MG6 and now driven the car at Kenilworth, was ‘ecstatic’ about his decision to buy one. Paul McNeil, the Sales Director of Luffield Cars Limited, Loughborough, Leicestershire, stated that the feedback which he had received from his company’s customers was ‘very good – particularly in regard to the handling of the car.’

Eight of the MG Dealers contacted by AROnline rated their pessimism or optimism about MG Motor UK’s prospects of success on a scale of 1 to 10 in response to Q3) above –  one other declined saying that he did not have the requisite crystal ball but was definitely looking at the MG franchise as a long-term proposition. The scores ranged from 4 out of 10 to 10 out of 10 and the average was 7.75 out of 10.

Stephen Kerridge, a Director of Kerridges (Needham Market) Limited in Suffolk, commented that the re-launched brand was still in its infancy but that, given the starting volumes, he had a good territory and was looking forward to the MG6 because there was tremendous loyalty to MG. Pricing would be key but the MG6 should do very well if the car drove as well as reported. John Newey said: ‘SAIC Motor seems very determined to achieve its goals – just look at the money invested to date – its an extremely profitable and wealthy company in China. There’s a whole new future for MG worldwide and SAIC Motor will probably be better custodians of the marque than any other OEM.’

Luffield Cars Limited’s Paul McNeil observed: ‘SAIC Motor is a huge company with incredible resources. Although it make take a while for the company to really understand our market and the requirements, it has already invested a huge amount in bringing the MG brand back and re-launching cars in the UK. The company’s involvement with GM and VW is testament to its long-term aspirations.’

Interestingly, of the nine MG Dealers who answered Q4) above, six voted for the C-segment crossover while three opted for the TF successor. Most of the respondents agreed that this was really ‘a head and heart issue’ but the consensus of the majority was that a C-segment crossover would generate more volume sales and hence profitablity. However, Stephen Kerridge’s company also holds a Noble franchise and used to have a TVR franchise as well so, as he said, a TF replacement would be a neater fit with his business’ profile.

Allan Rossington, the Dealer Principal of Royles Group PLC’s MG site in Prestbury, Cheshire reckoned that a new two-seater roadster would fit really well with the local demographic while Richard Hilton, the Dealer Principal of Stafford-based Hopton Garage, felt that the C-segment crossover niche was already saturated by the dominant Nissan Qashqai and other newer competitors such as the new Range Rover Evoque so a similar MG model would ‘have to be really special to compete.’ Mr. Hilton added that, while a mid-engined, RWD format would appeal to the traditionalist, the adoption of FWD for any TF replacement would not make a difference on the showroom floor.

AROnline’s conclusions? Well, a small number of the original batch of MG Dealers may have decided to relinquish the franchise but those that remain seem to be encouraged by the response which the MG6 has received from those members of the public who have already driven the car and pretty optimistic about MG Motor UK’s and the MG franchise’s prospects of success in the medium to long term.

However, irrespective of the answers to Q4) above, there was a tacit acceptance that the new MG range would be incomplete without a new sports car. Indeed, given that Kia Motors Corporation’s Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, has repeated that Kia must do ‘some sort of roadster or convertible’ and added that ‘I won’t give up until we have one’ (See: Kia wants a roadster… but not yet, Automotive News Europe, 4 April 2011), most, if not all, of the MG Dealer Network will probably be hoping that MG Motor UK Limited’s Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones, can deliver on this statement which he recently gave to Autocar’s Matt Saunders: ‘A brand like MG needs a true sports car in its offering and, as soon as our primary line-up of volume models is established in the UK, we expect to introduce one.’

One of our respondents emphasised that SAIC Motor and MG Motor UK must deliver MG’s Future Product Programme on time in order to build the brand’s credibility and win the trust of both those in the Dealer Network and their customers. AROnline believes that will be an essential prerequisite to the success of both the MG marque and of the MG franchise in the coming years…

Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

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.

25 Comments on "MG Motor UK : The Dealer Network’s take on the MG6 and beyond"

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  1. Andrew Elphick says:

    Good work, Clive! Will there be a retrospective 12 months on as well?

  2. @Andrew Elphick
    Yes, if not before – assuming, of course, that one or two other potential non-AROnline projects which are evolving at the moment do not prevent me from allocating sufficient time to the research…

  3. Simon Hodgetts says:

    It’s great to see that Summit Garage are carrying on with MG – as long as I’ve been alive they’ve been a BL/ARG/MG Rover Dealer – and, after everything the marques have been through, that’s dedication!

    I hope that the MG6 brings them and the other MG Dealers big profits – it’s a good (and different) car and I really wish it, and them, the best.

  4. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Kia had a bloody good roadster!

  5. Mark Hayman says:

    The MG6 must be great news for the existing MG Dealers. Hopefully, as the other new MG models are launched here in the UK, more companies will take on the MG franchise to promote future sales and support the MG brand.

  6. Grahame says:

    Fingers crossed! This is a exciting time for MG and everyone involved.

  7. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    I reckon that the geographic spread of the MG Dealer Network is lopsided at the minute and maybe MG Motor UK will have to bite the bullet and re-engage some of the bigger, multi-marque Dealer Groups to get things moving e.g. Arnold Clark in Scotland.

    I have probably said this here and elsewhere, but having to travel at least an hour to the nearest MG Dealer is a bit of a disincentive – not just for buying the car but for any servicing/warranty issues etc..

  8. Simon Woodward says:

    @Richard Kilpatrick
    That’s true – what happened to Kia’s version of the M100 Lotus Elan?

  9. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    A superb article, Clive!!!

    The references to missing dealer representatives make interesting reading – this may have been down to the distance involved or general CBA (can’t be @rsed).

    Those dealers who saw fit NOT to attend will soon reap the rewards, or lack of them. The story reinforces my thoughts and hands on experience of the defeatist attitude many Dealers seem to adopt.

    The MG marque needs stability and wow factor – some still associate the brand with the image of bearded, pipe-smoking college lecturers which the previous custodians, the MG Rover Group, managed to displace with some success.

    I have seen no billboard advertising and TV advertising which is worrying. I reckon that, in order to make this launch work, MG Motor UK needs to smack people in between the eyes to build confidence and prove that MG is no flash in the pan. Get a few vehicles seeded in the fleet market and get some real presence out on the road.

    I really do hope it works but, please, let’s be proactive with public awareness and show the world that we can still build (albeit in CKD form) damn good cars with a spash of sporting prowess, value for money and a certain something in the class stakes which the likes of Ford and Vauxhall never quite manage to achieve.

  10. Marty B says:

    I doubt Kerridge’s will shift many at all as Needham Market is rapidly dying – the village’s last big employer, a hotel, went bust two months ago and passing trade is almost zero, due to nearly everyone using the A14.

    Kerridge’s are a sports car dealer, not a seller of Chinese made tat which has a few bits screwed on at Longbridge. I notice they still have an unsold TF in the showroom too.

    There has been zero advertising and the car is uncompetitive. A few dyed in the wool people will buy them, but nobody else will. What the Chinese need to realise is the recession is deepening – high street sales suffered their biggest ever fall last month and jobless totals continue to rise – and launching a car with high road tax and only petrol engines is one of the biggest mistakes they could possibly make.

    I can see why many franchises told MG Motor UK to ‘get stuffed’, as they don’t want a load of unsold metal which nobody wants cluttering up their compounds and money tied up in cars they cannot possibly sell. They might register 2000 cars in a year (for the Press Fleet and Demonstrators), but I doubt they will actually sell many to ‘Joe Public’.

    No dealer confidence = no sales.

  11. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    @Paul T
    Quite right, having a dealer beyond walking/cycling/train or bus distance is a joke if you are only running one car.

    Some time ago, I considered buying a Saab 9-5 3.0TiD estate, but found that the nearest Saab Dealer was an awkward 12 miles away. Never mind, I thought, let’s try H*lf*rds as a backup plan.

    I went to the parts counter and asked the female employee, who looked to be celebrating her 16th Birthday that very day, to quote me on an oil filter for the above described Swedish steel.

    Her reply was a masterpiece of misinformation and ignorance: “A Saab – that’s an Astra, isn’t it?” Almost right… I believe she has now found alternative employment.

  12. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Marty B :
    Chinese made tat that has a few bits screwed together at Longbridge.

    Don’t talk nonsense. Most cars are a few bits of Chinese-made tat screwed together somewhere. Before that people in Coventry probably talked darkly about their cars becoming a few bits of Quinton or Carlisle-made tat screwed together in Coventry.

    Most consumer durables are Chinese-made nowadays – including some high-precision cameras and lenses such as, for example, the Ricoh GXR on my desk right now – one of the most expensive compact cameras you’ll get once you add up all the components. It’s made in China, is incredibly well made and performs brilliantly – tat it is not!

    You can dislike the car as much as you like, but it’s downright offensive to describe something as tat purely because it’s made in China, which appears to be the leap you’re making here – unless, of course, you’ve got one of these cars and have subsequently found out that it’s tat.

    Simon Woodward :
    @Richard Kilpatrick
    That’s true – what happened to Kia’s version of the M100 Lotus Elan?

    No idea! I assume it got killed off due to poor domestic sales and it wasn’t exported (sadly). It was produced for a few years and Wiki’s stuff has a paragraph on it which suggests 1995 to 1999 but no other detail.

    Interestingly, moving on from Wiki, and looking at Kia – the hateful Kia Pride sold 1800 units as a new car from an unknown brand in the UK in 1991, despite being based on already dated Mazda/Ford tech. 3000 cars a year doesn’t really seem unrealistic for MG.

  13. Andreas L Behlau says:

    Funny… I was talking to my dad about the car today. I pass Summit Garage on the way to work every day and got to see the MG6 there – it did look good in grey.

  14. Jon says:

    @Marty B
    YAWN – troll alert!

  15. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    The nursery’s open again…

  16. Jemma says:

    @Ken Strachan
    Well, I guess that’s better than to be looking at a pretty idiot who may be as dumb as a post, but understands the concept of grooming than to be looking at the male equivalent. You know, the one who had body odour that could knock out a 13th Century Londoner and spends fully half his time cupping parts of his anatomy in case they had been spirited away in the 30 seconds since he last groped himself in front of a customer…

    Mind you, to be fair, she was right that the Astra and Saab are related – in the sense they both have four wheels, an engine and rock bottom residuals…

  17. Jemma says:

    However, I digress – it’s practically a death knell for a car to come out without a credible diesel option these days. The people who would have been waiting for it (the dyed in senility owners and the like) will walk away and get something else, because petrol just can’t compete on bang for buck with the diesel cars.

    The other problem is that people are likely not to look at up to date information on the cars so, even if you do introduce a diesel version, you’ll lose customers because people will think ‘Hmm MG6? Nope, no diesel…’ even after the diesel has been introduced.

    I hope that the MG6 diesel comes out and is successful, although I can’t help but feel that the last ‘British’ MGs were the ‘Z’ cars. It’s nice to keep an old name alive, but let’s not fool ourselves that this vehicle is in any way British…

    Ironic really – being British was what spelled doom finally for BL/AR/MGR and here’s a Chinese company banking on the Britishness of something that isn’t British to sell it… *sigh*

  18. Glyn Stacey says:

    Slagging off the Chinese is pathetic – it smacks of the same thing back in the early 1970s with the Japanese. Grow up and realise that they are so good at so much e.g. batteries and solar panels and they can make good cars at pence/unit. They will learn so fast, it will frighten everyone else to death.

  19. Simon Woodward says:

    A lot of people have mentioned the lack of a diesel option, not just in response to this article but also to several others on the MG6. It’s a valid point which I have read will be addressed in 2012.

    My observation is how rapidly diesel engines have advanced in recent years. The 300 TDi engine in my Land Rover is archaic compared to the 2.8-litre JTDi in my Fiat van – it’s a bit like comparing a Sopwith Camel with the Typhoon Eurofighter – though only a decade separates the two vehicles.

    Actually, it doesn’t seem that long when Honda were quoted as saying they’d rather develop petrol engines further with the excellent VTEC range rather than develop diesels. Thinking about it Subaru have only just introduced diesel to the range and a flat four diesel at that.

    Diesel engines have, in other words, come a long way in such a short period – they are no longer a slow, sluggish and smelly, just look at JLR’s new V8 Diesel. Car makers can longer bolt a turbo to a van engine and drop it into their passenger cars – customers just want a hell of a lot more.

  20. CMPD says:

    @Glyn Stacey
    Yes, having spent a week in Beijing recently, my overriding impression is how that, when they put their minds to something, the Chinese will get it done – and be very successful.

    I agree that, when you realise how far the country has come in barely 30 years since opening up their economy, it is scary to think where they will be in the next 30 years. We will then look back on these MGs as just the start of something huge. I may be wrong, of course, but I doubt it.

  21. Dennis says:

    @Ken Strachan
    Actually, the oil filter might well have been the same as an Astra’s as Saabs use mostly GM parts…

  22. Philip says:

    Be honest, would you really buy an MG6? Come trade in time, they will laugh at you.

  23. Hilton Davis says:

    Trade in values and depreciation are always a concern, which is why I sold my ZS earlier than I wanted to. I enjoyed owning it. The MG6 will probably depreciate on a par with the likes of Hyundai and Kia etc.

    I can’t understand why so many customers expect six speed boxes. A five speed with decent ratios does the job. I think adding that diesel is more important. The Dealer Network needs to develop in order to gain customer confidence in after-sales support.

  24. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    Strangely enough, my parents seemed taken with the MG6 from what they saw in the press ond on TV this week. I told them the price range and that seemed to increase their interest as it is well within their budget.

    My father has owned two MGs, both ‘MMM’ cars. He had one the first MG Metros registered in Edinburgh (as he found out when the Police stopped him a few times just as an excuse to have a look at it!) and an MG Maestro 2.0 EFi. He loved both cars and that is why he is interested in a new MG saloon (he wished he had bought a ZS rather than a Rover 45 once he saw mine).

    Now, I am not calling into question the wisdom and expertise of those on here who are calling the car a pile of c**p, but the fact is there will be a lot of people like my Dad who will be seriously thinking about this for similar reasons. They will not have had their opinions influenced by the negativity we have read, nor by the unbridled optimism by MG Motor UK’s supporters – I consider myself a supporter as you will have gathered. Most of these potential buyers will have no knowledge of what has happened at Longbridge since MGR went bust – they just know it is back assembling cars again.

    No, they will decide to investigate the MG6 further based on their previous experience of owning an MG and will decide to buy based on what they see and a test drive. Then, they will pass judgment based on their ownership experience. At the end of the day, that ‘ownership experience’ will determine whether the car succeeds or fails.

  25. Jack Yan Jack Yan says:

    @Richard Kilpatrick
    Simon and Richard, from what I understand, the Kia Élan was killed off due to poor sales and enjoyed an even briefer lifespan than what Wiki believes.

    Bear in mind that, in the late 1990s, there wasn’t that much room on the Korean domestic market for a small convertible and the Japanese sales which Kia had hoped for (it was the only Korean car listed for sale there) never materialised.

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