News Analysis : No smoke and mirrors at MG Birmingham…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Words: Clive Goldthorp Photographs: Adam Sloman

MG3 (3)

AROnline has already run two stories about the recent MG3 Media Launch at MG Birmingham – News: MG3 revealed with personalisation options and News: MG’s European Design Centre expanded – but, in essence, two key themes emerged from the presentations delivered by SAIC Motor’s Global Design Director, Anthony Williams-Kenny, his UK-based colleague and Vice-Director, Design, Martin Uhlarik and MG Motor UK’s Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones. British-led design and the Design Team in Birmingham will have a vital role to play in designing the next generation of MGs while the positioning and success of the European-specification MG3 within the highly competitive B-segment will be a major factor in establishing MG as a global marque.

The Importance of British-led Design

The addition of a second Design Studio with another design plate, the installation of an advanced Five-Axis milling machine and the new 2D and 3D Visualisation Suite represent a further investment of £1.5m by SAIC Motor in the Design Centre at MG Birmingham. The new facilities can be viewed in the SAIC Design-produced video below and serve to underline the importance which the company places upon British-led design in the successful evolution of MG.

Anthony Williams-Kenny elaborated on the theme by posing this question during his presentation: ‘Why does SAIC Motor have a Design Centre here in the UK and continue to invest heavily in this facility?’ He gave this answer: ‘Firstly, and most significantly I would say, is brand. MG’s core values demonstrate strong British emotion and accessible fun. This is best understood and communicated by those familiar with the environment in which MG has evolved and it is vital that this inspiration and heritage is harnessed within the total design process and the whole Design Team.

‘Secondly, I would say that British design – in all forms – is a key factor. We are inspired by the originality and the dynamic and progressive thinking, both historical and contemporary, of British design. From  iconic and functional to the pure and beautiful, Britain continues to be a leading light for Industrial Design. Now, more than ever, that [leadership] extends to architecture where Britain is a world leader with luminaries such as Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers inspiring the world to push the boundaries of possibility.

‘British design also extends to the Fashion Industry – from couture to the high street, an amalgamation of styles and tastes – old and new – creating a fusion of ideas, always reinventing itself. This best describes British style and this creativity challenges us to question and push the boundaries of originality. It’s therefore important that we develop the global design process in such a way as to harness that awareness, that heritage and that creativity.’

SAIC Motor’s Vice-Director Design, Martin Uhlarik, began his presentation by saying that ‘fundamentally, we have been inspired by British design – that’s the main USP for this Design Centre being here.’ He continued: ‘What is British design? Many people think that British design reflects the values of the past associated with words such as tradition, heritage, craftsmanship and bespoke and that’s as relevant for MG as it is for design in general. However, British design is always reinventing itself, always looking forward – it’s modernity, technology, innovation and revolution. Historically, people think that these are two opposites but, actually, if you look at how creativity works in the UK, it’s the fusion of these two ideas that creates something new and that’s constantly moving forward.’

The MG3 will, as has been mentioned previously, be available from the Dealer Launch in September with a choice of at least ten Graphic Packs and Martin Uhlarik outlined the thinking behind some of these – the iconic Sixties’ Mod symbol has, for example, been fused with the famous MG octagon to create a graphic which he reckoned would become ‘quite a signature for the car’ while the UK-based Design Team also took their inspiration from British architecture and fashion, digital and graphic design when creating the other Graphic Packs.

Martin Uhlarik and the other 29 members of his Design Team at SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre Limited (SMTC UK) have clearly devoted much thought and time to ensuring that the European version of the MG3 will be a competitive and contemporary product so AROnline asked that company’s Managing Director, David Lindley (below left, speaking with Clive Goldthorp), for his thoughts about the MG3′s prospects – Mr. Lindley replied: ‘I’m very excited – the MG3 will be a key model for MG in the UK and having a car which competes in the biggest segment of the market will give us a real opportunity to establish the MG brand.’

MG3 (1)

The Positioning of the MG3 Within the B-Segment

The most significant part of the presentation given by MG Motor UK Limited’s Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones, was unsurprisingly therefore devoted to an analysis of the European B-segment market and who were likely to be the MG3′s target customers.

Guy Jones readily admitted that the European B-segment is ‘very, very competitive’ and that ‘the customers are spoilt for choice and exceedingly demanding’ before posing the question ‘why buy an MG3?’ He continued: ‘Distinctive design is obviously an advantage, but it’s not enough. The core small car buyer wants a new car which is stylish, well-equipped and spacious while, increasingly, people are looking for value. New cars are becoming more and more expensive with the technology that’s being legislated into them. Brands which customers recognise as offering better value for money rise and rise and take market share from the established brands.

‘There’s another group of customers – the young or younger at heart – and, for them, their own personal image is much more important. They want the most stylish, fun car they can afford – one which shows off their personality – and this is an increasing trend. They also, like the current trend in communications, want to share this experience with friends so it’s important to have the most stylish, fun car that’s as practical as possible.

‘There’s another key trend in the market and that’s personalisation… Cars like the MINI, Fiat 500 and Citroen DS3 have started to break ground and offer customers the chance to personalise their vehicle. We want to do the same with the MG3 and enable people not just to have a distinctively-styled car but to be able to style that car to their own personal requirements and have a car that’s pretty much unique to them.

Guy Jones continued: ‘The volume of the market is still in [the B-segment] with the Ford Fiesta being the benchmark product in the UK and, as I’ve said, we’ve seen the rise of brands like Skoda and Kia with their Fabia and Rio products. But, for our target customers, we want products such as the MINI and Audi A1 to be the aspirational design icons behind the car – these are the cars which people aspire to but, for the people we are selling to, these cars are simply beyond their target price. The challenge for us with MG3 is to produce something which has those aspirational design and style qualities and can be personalised to each customer’s own requirements but which can compete and take sales in the volume market.’

MG3 (2)

MG Motor UK therefore clearly intends to pitch the MG3 as an affordable and aspirational B-segment contender but the success or otherwise of that strategy may well also depend upon several other significant factors. AROnline took the opportunity to ask Guy Jones whether the company had learned any lessons from the launch of the MG6 two years ago. Mr. Jones replied: ‘Well, not so much lessons as we always knew that the MG6 was going to be difficult for two reasons: firstly, in terms of the UK and European market, the MG6 was not the obvious model with which to relaunch the marque and, secondly, sales of petrol-engined C and D-segment models were falling – in short, we are selling the MG6 into a declining niche. However, from SAIC Motor’s perspective, the MG6 is the company’s first global product and, as the Chinese market favours D-segment cars, its high price position has enabled the company to establish MG as a desirable brand in China.

‘The MG3 has a natural fit with the MG marque – it’s small, cheeky and has a distinctive style. The B-segment is the UK’s biggest – 90 per cent are hatchbacks and 70 per cent are petrol-engined variants. We will have a great car in a big volume segment so we can target selling more cars. The MG3 will appeal to a wider demographic than the MG6 and that should help to raise awareness that MG is back more quickly than has been possible with the MG6. More Dealers need more product – the MG3 will provide that.’

However, if the MG3 is to take a significant share of the B-segment market here in the UK and, later, in Europe, MG Motor UK will need to convince not only the car’s target demographic but also some of the more critical and vocal members of the global MG community that SAIC Motor does genuinely have a long-term commitment to MG Birmingham and the European market. SAIC Motor’s additional £1.5m investment in the UK Design Centre’s facilities – as evidenced by the video above – should help MG Motor UK to make that case but AROnline was still keen to raise our readers’ concerns about SAIC Motor’s future in the UK with Guy Jones so we asked him this question: what, once and for all, are SAIC Motor’s plans for MG Birmingham and how can you address our readers’ concerns about the company’s long-term commitment to the UK and Europe?

Guy Jones responded: ‘Well, it’s good to be talked about – the fact that so many people are so passionate about the marque is one of its greatest assets. However, people have to realise that, while MG is an iconic British brand, it is now a global OEM and the UK is not the centre of MG’s global operations as it was originally. Any OEM needs to have a stable, secure business and to expand out from that base. The growth in the UK and other international markets is in its infancy and SAIC Motor has grown its own-brand business from a clean sheet to sales of nearly 250,000 units p.a. in just over five years. Additionally, SAIC Motor has already recruited and developed the people and built the factories which are essential for growth way beyond this level.

‘I totally understand the frustration of those MG enthusiasts who want to see more product in the UK, more quickly. However, as a business, we’re not prepared to risk making mistakes that might kill the brand in Europe by bringing products to the market in quicker timescales. The Business Plan we have will build MG into a globally successful OEM for the first time in its history but, even with all the resources at our disposal, this is going to take time.’

Our Take

MG3 (5)

Guy Jones concluded his presentation by saying that the MG3 would be ‘fun to buy, fun to own – enjoy the MG family – and fun to drive’ – he therefore established the key criteria against which both the Automotive Industry media and the British public will measure the car. AROnline believes that the success of MG Motor UK’s plan to position the MG3 as an affordable and aspirational B-segment player here in the UK will turn on the company’s ability to deliver a product which matches that message.

Fun to Buy – The Pricing Structure

MG Motor UK has, to date, said no more than that the MG3 will start at below £10,000. However, as Guy Jones implied that potential Kia Rio and Skoda Fabia buyers would be the MG3’s main targets and an entry-level Kia Rio 5-Door starts at £9845 otr. while an entry-level Skoda Fabia starts at £9945 otr., we reckon that a competitively-equipped, entry-level MG3 needs to arrive on the showroom floors in September at an eye-catching £7995 otr. Hopefully, that would have potential B-segment buyers queuing up at MG Dealers for Test Drives… That said, even if such a competitive price turns out not to be an option for MG Motor UK, the entry-level MG3 really does need to start at less than £9000 otr. in order to carve out that affordable and aspirational B-segment niche. After all, MG Motor UK’s target customers will almost certainly need to have some cash to spare for one of the ten Graphic Packs and any other options on offer…

Fun to Own – The Dealer Network

MG Motor UK currently has a total of 29 Franchised Dealers in the UK but Guy Jones told AROnline that the company aims to increase that total to 75 covering 80 per cent of the country’s conurbations by the end of 2014. Sam Burton, MG Motor UK’s recently appointed Head of Sales and Franchise, indicated that the MG3 had been a major factor in his decision to join the company and reckoned that the new model should help him to achieve that objective. However, although some die-hard MG enthusiasts might not mind a 50 or 100 mile round trip to visit their nearest MG Dealer, AROnline doubts that can be said of the MG3’s younger target demographic and so finding the right dealerships in the right locations and with the right staff will be vital to the MG3’s success.

Fun to Drive – The Driving Experience

MG Motor UK has not, as yet, released any MG3s to the Automotive Industry media for First Drive articles and Road Tests but that will presumably happen prior to the new model’s Dealer Launch in late August/early September – definitely a case, then, of watch this space. However, as our Editor, Keith Adams, has already reported, the ‘word on the street from those who really know about the UK model’s driving and dynamics is that it’s tidy on the road’ and SMTC UK’s Director – Chassis, Andy Kitson, and his colleagues are talented individuals so the MG3 should deliver on Guy Jones’ ‘fun to drive’ promise…

A final point: the unveiling of the MG3 was staged in SMTC UK’s new Visualisation Suite and without any dry ice or flashy pyrotechnics – no smoke and mirrors, just a very rare opportunity to see inside an OEM’s Design Centre and meet the key players tasked with transforming MG into a successful and truly global business.

MG3 (4)

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.

53 Comments

  1. Fun to Buy – The Pricing Structure

    “…Skoda Fabia starts at £9945 otr., we reckon that a competitively-equipped, entry-level MG3 needs to arrive on the showroom floors in September at an eye-catching £7995 otr….”

    £7995! This is exactly what I said it should be priced at in previous comments!

    MG HAS to price it at this price, as dealers are already selling brand-new, discounted Fabias for under £9k so the MG3 has to be 1k less than this!

    Again’ I wish the MG3 well (after all, some UK jobs are at stake here) and, if it’s keenly priced (i.e £7995 or less!) it WILL SELL! However, MG take note – if it’s priced at “just under the £10k” forget it! It’s dead in the water!

  2. Oh, and bung in a minimum 5 year warranty and make low interest payment deals +/ or free insurance for the first year… Indeed, anything else which will make the “yoof” out there take notice and be steered away from something similar.

  3. I agree, this will stand or fall on the pricing, it is bad enough that it has no EuroNCAP.

    If the 6 has one, and they recognised from the off that this was not the right car for the market, then why, oh why, are they not bothering with the car that should be closest to what sells in the market.

  4. Ianto,

    So you’re pro- or anti-MG today? It’s so hard to tell.

    A quick word about NCAP as it’s best to nip that in the bud now, just so you understand. EuroNCAP testing is done in batches, and not just whenever a new car is launched. It’s also voluntary and not compulsory. Look at what’s been tested – not EVERY car is run through this test. And just one more thing – MANY, MANY cars arrive on the market before they’ve been tested. Remember that the UK generally gets cars months after they’ve been launched in mainland Europe.

    Right now we’re between NCAP batches. I’ve spoken to MG Engineers and the ‘3 will be NCAP tested, just as the MG6 was. So less whinge, please 🙂

  5. What’s all the NCAP fuss all about? The MG3’s been crash tested in China – is that not good enough? It’s not a death trap and if, it wasn’t NCAP-compliant, it would be. Why hasn’t it got LED number plate lamps?

    The story makes it sparklingly clear that SAIC Motor is taking baby steps in the UK and this car won’t be an 8000 unit a month sell-out hit. Buy it if you like it, if you don’t, don’t. It’s no use everyone having a thrombie over the pricing – I’d be happier having 105 horses for nearly £10k than an empty Fabia with a 60 BHP 3 pot.

    Oh, and with Skoda, you really need that warranty.

  6. That was a good read. Answered a lot of my questions.

    But I’ve always thought surely cars like this are too expensive for your “yoofs”.

  7. I’m really not sure that they are going to be successful at expanding the dealer network with all that the expense that entails, plus loss of showroom ‘real estate’ that could be used to sell faster selling marques.

    I still think the ‘drip drip’ approach to bringing the cars to market is a bad mistake. Dacia showed how it should be done (notwithstanding that Dacia are owned by Renault- a company that has an established reputation in the UK). I wish them well, but if I was a dealer looking for a new franchise, it would be hard to come up with a compelling reason to adopt MG Motors. Oh, and drop the bloody price for crying out loud!

  8. Dacia is a totally different sell, very cheap to appeal to certain types who want a new car. Look and feel like decade old Renaults and the fit and finish is poor, residuals will be similarly poor.

    For MG it doesn’t make sense to chase this market. It does for Renault as their sales have fallen off a cliff.

  9. Chris Baglin @8 above,

    I assume your remark imploring MG Motor UK to drop the MG3’s price was prompted by the company’s statement that the range would start at less than £10,000 and not AROnline’s suggestion that the entry-level model should be launched at £7995…

    However, for the avoidance of any doubt, our understanding is that MG Motor UK will not announce the MG3’s Pricing Structure until the car reaches MG Dealers in late August/early September.

  10. If only the cars looked like British-designed cars… There is so much waffle from SAIC.

    “SAIC Motor’s Vice-Director Design, Martin Uhlarik, began his presentation by saying that ‘fundamentally, we have been inspired by British design…” Utter nonsense. There is no British-inspired design on these cars, they are designed for the Far Eastern market.

    If they only took their own words and designed a car that is inspired by British cars, they wouldn’t have to compete with Dacia and Proton.

  11. Meanwhile, up the road near Wolverhampton, JLR announced earlier this week an expansion of their operations on the i54 Business Park – before they’re even open:
    http://www.shropshirestar.com/shropshire-business/2013/06/23/jaguar-land-rover-revving-up-ready-to-hit-ground-running/

    A total of 1300 jobs up for grabs, as well as an education centre to inspire the next generation. Fabulous stuff.

    If I was holed up in Longbridge, doodling away with my octagon pencil, I know what I’d be doing with my CV…

  12. I see lots more negativity and incorrect comments about Renault and Dacia and so on – it would be lovely to one day have a post that is negative free.

    I will not hold my breath, as there seems to be an underlying trend for some to just berate MG just for the sake of it.

    Ho hum, never mind…

    • JagBoy,

      In making a post like this – and many other like it – aren’t you also perpetuating this tiresome trend towards negativity (which also pisses me off)? Instead of whingeing, why not post something to address the balance?

      As an aside, I notice on your blog, fourth post down starts off with the title, ‘MG Fail’ blah, blah, blah. Pot, kettle, black?

  13. @8, You are right about the established reputation, nurtured and honed over the years – and what a complete turd Renault turned into, no rival against Insignia which sells well so they give up? Oh, and how about the Megane which looks a generation behind the last-generation Megane!

    What’s the rush and worry about dealers and this car? As stated, the UK isn’t the centre of the universe any more. We should, perhaps, have thought about this day way back in ’05 instead of getting dripped up on 3 Series, then we might still have had a British company. Why is this car not worth £10k?

    Meanwhile, with regards to JLR, what relevance has that to the MG3? What,s wrong with some readers’ train of thought? I want it now, I want it bigger or better – stupefying!

  14. @11 Can you please define what you consider to be British inspired design that this car does not have? It was designed in Britain surely for an international market – just like most cars from most manufacturers.

    Appears on the very limited information to date to look fairly reasonable but I don’t think it will easily tap into the “aspirational” market whatever the price is.

    Also, I will be highly surprised if the starting price in under £9,500

  15. The video is a nice little taster but doesn’t really show or tell us anything new. I just hope that MG’s effort and aspirations translate into better popularity and sales than the “6” has had.

  16. So MG is now Chinese-owned? Big deal, it’s created jobs at longbridge hasn’t it, not as many as once was but, hey, from little acorns etc. I like the styling but, as many people have already said, competitive pricing is absolutely key in this crowded sector. Saw my first MG6 a few days ago, looks quite nice to be honest.

  17. @4 – Sorry Keith, didn’t know this – very helpful information, if the sums add up the MG3 will back on my list when I change the wife’s Picanto.

    No more whinging……well for today at least.

  18. I get a sense that the MG revival might, hopefully, be getting underway this time.

    But! After the hopes of challenging BMW in the 1980s and 1990s with the old Rover Group, we are now hoping to challenge Dacia???

    I really think more effort should have been put into soft feel stuff AND 300 airbags as that’s what sells these days, plus low emissions. Then get the UK Design Team onto the looks – the Chinese home market would lap it up.

    Fact is, MG aren’t appealing to the UK market. And as the local Chinese cotton on to the fact that MG really isn’t British designed, the home market could dry up as well.

    I wish they’d get a P4, P6, SD1 and a 75 together to understand the DNA. Heck, come to Australia and analyse my ZT-T to get how the marque (not brand, I hate that cheapening term) comes across in a foreign market.

    I’ll get me coat…

  19. “British Design in all its forms is a key factor” So why have they made it look like something from the Pacific Rim?

  20. Another big point that nobody has really touched on or hinted at is MPG and emissions – if the MG3 is thirsty and costs too much to tax, lots of people in the market for a small car will not give it a chance. It is a very competitive segment and everything about the car needs to be right.

  21. Styling – that’s subjective. Someone round here said it looks like a Fabia. Others say it’s similar to the Swift. So the jury’s out.

    Mpg and emissions figures have yet to be announced, so it’ll be pure speculation. As a 1.5-litre petrol, clearly it’ll be higher than 99g/km, but other than that we don’t know – so wait and see.

    Write off the marketing and PR by all means, but let’s see how the 3 drives and what the figures are before going all doom and gloom, eh?

  22. Why do MG not make use of its dedicated followers:-

    a) By asking for a limited number volunteers to promote the MG3 prior to launch by drive the car around and showing it to the public in areas where there are no current dealerships.

    b) In Lancashire, where I live, there are numerous factories which used to be part of the old Rover Group Car Purchase Scheme. There’s lots of interest in MG in this neck of the woods. What have you to lose? Go on, give it a try.

  23. Did anyone dare mention CityRover at the Longbridge presentation?

    If I were MG I’d not mention the Kia Rio given its relative (claimed) fuel economy…

  24. Well, the general impression I get from reading the above is a good one…

    SAIC, as I always wanted to believe (and ultimately did), has a longer term plan. A global plan, not just one aimed at the MG enthusiast here in the UK!The MG3, it seems, is going to see a quite significant growth in sales here in the UK. It is seen as a more suitable car (than the 6) for re-launching MG here in the UK.

    It’s another piece of news to silence all the doubters…

  25. Thanks to Clive for a great article. That’s the best I’ve read Guy Jones articulate SAIC’s ambitions for MG in these islands and, while I understand the logic, I still find it depressingly unambitious.

    However, the ‘3 does represent a better offering than the ‘6 in terms of sales potential. I remain dubious of the continual references to ‘affordable AND aspirational’ – I fear the ‘3 will fall between these two stools and be neither enough of one or the other to be a success. Will be delighted to be proven wrong though…

  26. Ant @ 30 “I fear the ’3 will fall between these two stools and be neither enough of one or the other to be a success.”

    I see your point. However, I’d like to think that the MG3 can be successfully pitched at a relatively budget price but to a more aspirational, enthusiastic buyer. For example, to the younger, enthusiast buyer recently constrained by mortgage, family!!

  27. Well, I think it’s an all right looking car and, if MSN Cars is to go by, it looks to be built well too. As to British Design, what is British Design? Jaguars no longer look like Jaguars and Land Rovers have all gone Japanese looking.

  28. To refer to the MG3 as of British, Eurpean or Pacific Rim style is, in my view, nonsense. We are all members of a blobby CAD styling world. The last car that had any spark of individuality was the Renault “shake your ass” Megane designed by Patrick Le Clement (or Quement as some have it). Even my beloved Alfa are struggling to stand out from the crowd and the committee designed Citroen DS3 tries hard but is let down by the interior (yawn). The MG3 is no better or worse than anything else in this sector – people will buy it ‘cos they like it and won’t if they don’t.

    Let’s see these dealership numbers grow, let’s see MG3s in the car parks and on our roads. Let’s enjoy the shred (thin and mightily fragile though it is) of history as the Octagon returns. Skoda came from a joke worse than any that BL or MG ever perpetrated. Dacia has come from out of date cars being sold by penny numbers of back street (usually) dealers. Mid-life BMW came from Italian bubble cars, Honda came from mopeds, Nissan came from Austins in tea chests, Lotus came from weekend-build kit cars, Jaguar came from sidecars – the list goes on.

    Let’s be really smart and just watch – if it all goes belly up the knockers will have their day but, in the meantime, telling a motor company they’ve got it all wrong is like giving a donkey a raspberry. Nothing we say on this site will change a single thing. Live with it.

    After all, they (MG) could be right all along! I, for one, hope they are!

  29. Chris @ 28 ” Did anyone dare mention CityRover at the Longbridge presentation? ”

    So what if they did? CityRover is nothing to be ashamed of and MG UK need not even associate themselves with it. CityRover was an understandable move by an MGR in financial trouble. If not priced so highly the car would not have been so criticised but you can understand MGR trying to profit as much as they could.

  30. Well, on the positive side MG has a reputation for small cars going back to the MG Metro and MG 1100/1300 before that as well as the highly successful MG ZR. However, whilst MG are trying to be aspirational and good value they are not now seen in the same league as Audi, Mini or even mainstream brands like Ford and Vauxhall. A sporty Skoda would be where to pitch it, but they need a 5 year warranty, 3 years free road tax (to overcome the VED issue if emissions are too high), decent finance and a price range from £9k – £12k with all of the above. Then if they have a performance advantage compared to Skoda then all the better.

    It even looks like a Fabia and I would do a back to back advert like Triumph did with the Dolomite Sprint showing how much better it was than a BMW 3 Series – a third cheaper, more performance and more standard equipment. Show a Fabia 5 door and the MG3 to position the product and then demolish the opposition.

    All this British design language is lost on me – no MG from SAIC has any British design heritage – where are the visual links to MG 1100, MG Metro or MG ZR? I know they have to move forward but where is the British design aspect? If JLR did a small car it would have that. Then the MG3 would command a price point of £12 – £15K. Anyway, MG Motor have got to get this one right because it is make or break for the UK team – I wish them every success and look forward to trying the new car!

  31. @39, Where was the Cortina design language in the Sierra or the Escort in the Focus? What is it with design language, apart from some bollocks words some car “Designer” indulged himself on?

    You have to move forward, the MG3 looks fine, the Fabia is over-headlamped for a start – at least the 3 looks more resolved. Perhaps red seatbelts and a side-sliced tailpipe would help, I don’t know.

  32. Can you post pictures on these replies? I had a diddle around on Photoshop to make the MG3 a 3-dr hatch. Like every supermini, it looks much, much better.

    Shame MG don’t field a 3-door, they would be able to pursue the budget conscious 20-somethings better with this option. Mini, DS3, 500, Adam, are all three doors. A 5-door supermini doesn’t quite hit this market – they always scream ‘shopping trolley’ regardless of how nicely they are designed. I bet even Audi struggle to sell the 5 door A1 – I can’t remember the last time I saw one on the road. Even my beloved MINI Clubman (with its 4.5 doors) is a rare sight.

    I just hope MG last long enough in the UK for the next generation vehicles – they could be quite good.

  33. Francis @40,

    I’m sure whatever business you are in you have industry terminology? If you are a builder you might say a wall is green (meaning the mortar has not gone off) – but that surely doesn’t mean the term is b*****s because almost no one except a builder understands it? Car stylists have a huge bank of terms like everyone else. There was no ‘language’ and no ‘follow through’ or ‘parentage’ between the Cortina and the Sierra simply because Ford re-wrote the shape of the ordinary production car at that time. The greatest exponent of this ‘design language’ was BL themselves with such examples as the 1100, 1800 and 3-Litre. Design language is the reason why most of us can recognise styling by Pininfarina (the house not the man), Vignale, Bertone, Touring, Michelotti and all the great coachbuilders. I was familiar with the term (and variations of it) 30 years ago so it’s hardly the work of some designer indulging himself.

    I agree with you – we do have to move forward. The BMW MINI trick can only be done rarely and it has to be done very,very, well to succeed.
    JLR, of course, realised this and hence the new Jaguar saloons look nothing like the Jags of old – no design language or connection of any kind.

  34. @42, You are right about the 1100, 1800 and 3-Litre because they looked the same. I don’t buy into design language having thought of it recently when a car speaks I assimilate that with glorious, sonorous music from the engine or tailpipe – rather like an Alfa V6 or Stag V8-sounds without equal.

    As for design, I look for something that is emotive, evocative and beautiful – I see that in a SD1, Capri, Manta A, Stag, Facel Vega, E60 5-Series, Traction Avant and god knows what else.

    Terms like “flame surfacing”, “new edge design”, “upto yer nuts in guts flow synergy” are just design jargon and bollocks is not a swear word – perhaps uncouth – but, hey, I’m no builder, just in the car and truck industry.

  35. Will.f @41,

    A 3-door MG3 – now there’s a thought! This would markedly broaden its market. Budget versions (City?) right up to hot hatch (3R?!) The ‘City’ decal could be made trendy coupled with a bit of nostalgia and a ‘3R’ 3door could easily be a hit – the ZR is still a recent memory for many.

    Let’s hope there is one on the cards or does this not fit with SAIC’s more global plans?

  36. On the subject of jargon, I have to agree with Francis. The best one I’ve seen refers to the MINI Clubman – those faux roofbars are described as “Dune lines” and give an impression of, wait for it, “Tense motion”. What sort of corporate bolloxspeak is that? Fact is they think we’re dim enough to take it all in, but how many people go down the pub and talk about their Dune lines? Exactly.

  37. @18,

    When Rover was considering bringing an MG to market they spent a great amount of time on research looking into what an “MG” is to the public. The result was the MG F.That was a British-inspired design. BMW also put a great deal of effort into developing the 75 (although they screwed up by saying Rovers were not up to the mark and stifled any chance of a sports version so as not to compete with BMW – the car was therefore considered frumpy even though the design was good. That was a British-inspired design.

    Jaguars are also British-inspired designs. Bentley another, Triumphs were British inspired even though sometimes designed by Germans. On what planet is this oriental looking car “British-inspired”. I happen to think it looks OK by the way but I’m not going to be suckered in believing this is British-inspired – that’s just PR blag.

  38. @46

    MG are now to be aimed at a world market and therefore the British element will not be quite so strong not ‘British-inspired’ but more a strong British input to give the car appeal beyond China.

    The MG bit is just a thin veneer, a branding. Given the heritage, the strong following MG is, however, a pretty good name to have – a good starting point for building a strong image, a strong brand following.

    Additionally, as sales build here in the UK, there will be sufficient sales volume to justify more truly British ‘spin offs’ aimed exclusively at the UK market (and other countries like Japan which love the Brit bits).

  39. Francis and Dominic,

    I’ve no problem with considering Dune Lines and other such marketing speak as absolute tosh! I’m just not prepared to include genuine stylist’s terminology that was used extensively 30 years ago – everywhere from Paris to Turin. I’m just saying it’s not new and it does actually mean something. It appears in many books on car design and CAR Magazine used the term often.A car speaking? Of course, they do – and your right, the sound of a V6 Alfa is joy personified. There was one slightly upgraded 916 at Brooklands Italian day – sounded better than anything else barring none.

    Slartybartfast,

    I totally agree. There is no shred of Britishness in the styling of the MG3 but, to be fair, it would probably not sell if it looked like a Bentley. Triumph tried making a small car that looked like a Bentley in the 1950s – you might be too young to remember the Mayflower!

    One final thought – I understood most Triumphs of the latter days were penned by Michelotti – Italian?

  40. @47

    I hope you are right about British spin offs but SAIC Motor need to understand that, to be a credible “MG”, the marque needs to come home – it doesn’t matter who owns it and manufacturing in China is fine as long as true assembly is in the UK with its headquarters. The whole thing right now just doesn’t feel right, the heart of “MG” is somehow missing. The passion has gone. You are right it is just a thin veneer. They should make world cars and spin offs but my message to SAIC Motor would be “bring it home, don’t just stick a badge on a car. Leyland did that and it doesn’t work.”

    @48

    You are quite right, the Italians did design some Triumphs. You made me chuckle with the Bentley comment – it just made me think of the Allegro Vanden Plas, not exactly the right direction. I do remember Mayflower as a company, you may correct me but I believe they made the body panels for the MF F and I’m not quite certain but a friend of mine has a couple of Triumphs that look very similar to the Mayflower you mention rusting in a bad way in a garage.

  41. What about BMW? All they sell is product. At least a 1602 turbo had a soul, the E30 is a superb car – I own a ’89 320i and the silky smooth engine note is a treat.

    So the MG name is a veneer, but what isn’t? Nobody jumps into a Focus or Mondeo and closes their eyes and imagines rally heroes of yesteryear.

    What cars are desirable now? It’s Superbikes and Supercars that are desirable. Most folk choose their car because the next man has one or because Mr.Jones across the street has one – if you had the Bugs Bunny what would you really buy?

  42. What exactly is British design in small car terms? The Mini – possibly the most successful British car ever – and the Morris Minor were penned largely by Issigonis. As pointed out, the 1960s and 1970s saw a large Italian influence in the form of Farina and Michelotti. The 1980s and 1990s saw a very dominant Japanese input courtesy of the Honda association. Of the other makes, these were largely from the global or European corporate Design Teams. As suggested, apart from the expensive marques, what really constitutes British automotive styling?

    As to the MG3 looking nothing like an MG or previous iterations, what did people think when they were told the Marina was to replace the Minor, or the Farina version was to replace the Palmer Magnettes? Or that the Metro was the successor to the Mini? What of the Maestro and Montego replacing the Allegro and Princess models? Come to think of it, where was the British flair in the Rover SD1 that looked nothing like a P6 which looked nothing like a P5.

    The Rover 75 was probably the only car of the last four decades to have any kind of design language that spoke of past glories that was accessible and affordable to the man in the street.

    But please explain how a ZR has styling cues from a Metro or an 1100. It’s called design evolution. Nothing about any of these models had any styling suggestive of its predecessor, even the MG badge styling kept changing.

    The irony is that I have seen comments suggesting that even the MG Z range had grilles and faces harking back to the glory days of MG’s past. Yet the Z range inherited their looks from the Rover versions, as did the MMM from their Austin stable mates and as did the 1100 from the original Morris. Ironically, unlike the MG6 that is based on the Roewe 550 (designed to be a Rover until the management finally realised that they could not use the Rover badge), the MG3 is a stand-alone MG and thus has more in common with pre-war MGs in being so unique and avoiding badge-engineering.

    As far as MG saloons are concerned, the true MG saloon is not some shouty, bespoilered, fat-tyred boy-racer as so many seem to think. The true MG saloons – the proper ones – are the pre-war models that exuded elegance, yet were sporty in a gentlemanly, understated way. We should include the Y-type in this given it was a pre-war development and is, in fact, part of the MG3 lineage which I see as the 3, ZR, Metro, 1100 and Y-Type.

    The rot started after the war where MG saloons are concerned with the launch of the Wolseley with the XPAG engine and a year later the Magnette ZA with the B-Series engines. The 1100 and Farina Magnette at least upheld the elegance with walnut and leather and a unique front grille that paid homage to the historic MG grille styles. The real downfall began with the MMM, none of which had any frontal differentiation from their more common Austin brethren, and instead started an era of red seatbelts and loud graphics. The Z range only reinforced this nonsense, so please don’t give me the old “This is not a proper MG” regarding current SAIC/NAC models – there hasn’t been a proper MG since Lord Nuffield brought MG under the Nuffield empire.

    So who’s right? Had Longbridge not been dumped by the Labour Government in 2005, then perhaps the MG ZS replacement would have appeared within a year or so, followed by facelifts and other models. As has been seen on these pages the styling of the Rover 55 became the TCV and variations of the TCV are not that far off the Roewe 550 and current MG6. If you follow that logical design flow, then perhaps you are looking at the current cars that would have resulted?

    Except then, of course, you would be seeing it through the rose-tinted spectacles of part-British ownership…

  43. Sorry but this design is not going to push out the boat in advances in British design… if they want British design then they shouldn’t give us a mish-mash half-baked far eastern design from yesteryear.. Even Hyundai has a more a more European style to it than what’s on the table so far….

  44. I’m not sure about the Mayflower company but the razor-edged saloon of the 50’s was a scaled down Renown – using the same styling language but because of the size did not work so well. Lovely Art Deco dashboard though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*