Blog : MG about to turn the corner?

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

The new GS SUV - is it MG's great white hope?
The new GS SUV – is it MG’s great white hope?

We’re in interesting times for MG. The rebirth of the marque in the UK has been painful, controversial and frankly embarrassing at times, but there are glimmers of hope that the products now rolling out of Shanghai could well be the ones that we could do business with here.

These pre-launch shots (first shown on CarNewsChina) of the four-wheel drive MG GS clearly show a car that combines the visual punch of B-sector crossovers, such as the Renault Captur and the all-round practicality of the all-conquering British-designed and built Nissan Qashqai. You can easily imagine buyers rolling up to the dealers to buy a GS, and not feel embarrassed about the past few years’ of MG failure.

In terms of size, it’s a little larger than the Captur, measuring 4500mm by 1855mm, which puts it up with the Volkswagen Tiguan. Showing its Chinese origins, it’s petrol-powered only for launch, getting a turbocharged 2.0-litre 217bhp four-cylinder engine, and that should be enough to keep up with the turbodiesel crowd it’ll be fighting here. The turbocharged 1.5-litre will follow – as will the inevitable 1.9-litre turbodiesel as seen in the MG6.

mg-gs-china-1-1-660x369

So all is good, then? In China, this and the recently-launched MG GT (below) should prove more provide a much-needed fillip for MG dealers, whose cars haven’t exactly been flying out of the showrooms, thanks to the dominance of the Roewe marque there.

However, here in the UK, where we don’t get Roewe, the MG GS – along with the MG3 – should see those dealerships finally being stocked with something more desirable. So, should we be applauding the turnaround and final resurrection of MG? I’d like to say that there’s a bright new future for MG and that the cars are about to be seen on every street corner in the UK, but I’m still struggling with the whole sales and marketing operation in the UK.

It’s not that I don’t think the GS isn’t good enough to make a splash here, but there are other issues to consider. I summed up my feelings elsewhere, but they are worth repeating in concise form here because, as things stand at the moment, without changes at Longbridge, this promising new car’s prospects of success really will be hamstrung.

MG GT

The problem with MG Motor UK is that it’s a company of two halves in Longbridge. On one side you have a world-class Engineering Team that works under the SMTC UK banner and is designing and engineering some genuinely excellent product. Then there’s the other half – the MG assembly and retail/marketing arm.

They’ve have numerous opportunities to relaunch the MG brand in the UK intelligently but, so far, each and every one has been squandered. BTCC – where’s the publicity? MG6 – poorly priced and undermarketed. MG3 – brilliantly priced and presented, stymied by a lack of marketing.

Until very recently, these cars were being presented as British. Nominally, I don’t have a problem with that – but, in truth, it’s pretty naive and a dated approach. What they should have done is been bold – and trumpeted them as UK-designed cars built to world-class(!) standards in ‘New China’ (or some such, I am not a marketeer). Instead, it chose to promote itself with MGBs, Morris Minors and Tea-Cosys, and then wonder why enthusiasts were cynical.

Now I have driven the MG3 and the MG6 – extensively. For the first all-new products from a brand-new company, they are both very, very impressive. Compare them, say, with the 1974 Hyundai Pony or 1991 Kia Pride, and they are aeons ahead. I like both, understand them, and would happily buy either. But here’s the crunch – I’d buy them had they been sold by just about anyone other than MG Motor UK.

I suspect MG’s credibility window is now closing fast, and the first Euro-standard Chinese company – Qoros – has taken the initiative. And that is exceptionally disappointing given the good product that SMTC (and its Chinese counterpart) gave to MG Motor UK.

And if it doesn’t change, the GS (and GT if it comes here) really will struggle.

MG GT (2)

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

10 Comments

  1. Good article Keith. The problem is that MG is now a Chinese company and they are looking at the brand with Chinese eyes even when over here. As someone who spends a lot of time in Beijing, the ‘pipe and slippers’ thing works well because the country has a very superficial view of the UK (James Bond, the Queen, David Beckham). They don’t understand that here in the UK, our understanding of ourselves is a little more subtle.

    As you say, they need to present the brand as a no-nonsense, fun, value for money proposition. Lively to drive, affordable to run with a cheeky, happy character – think MG Midget. But they don’t need to start showing plastering Union Jacks and pictures of Stirling Moss everywhere. In the MINI, BMW has managed to sell an excellent small car with some playful touches of the 1960s and bit of faux Britishness, but it knows where to stop and doesn’t milk it too far. I fear that MG lacks the native wit to do this, so it’s probably best to sell the cars for what they are – cheap and fun.

  2. Hi Keith, all good points. I don’t know about anybody else, but frankly I find the “British” thing embarrassing. It doesn’t even seem to work that well in China, as sales of MG and even Roewe have shown. As the owner of the MG6, an almost-excellent car, I don’t really think of it as British, despite its Rover heritage (platform, engine, etc) and storied British badge. I see it as the product of a global company. The country in which a car is built is increasingly irrelevant these days and, indeed, after 8 months behind the wheel of the MG I’m still to find anything which shouts “Chinese” at me. The car is as well designed and put-together as anything else in the price bracket, and it needs only some very light tweaking to thoroughly place it in the pack. Proper marketing is all that stands between MG and success, and that, as you imply, is a different story altogether.

    • Long, long ago. It’s a brand that should have been retired some time between the late 1960’s and 2005. To see it run out time and time again on anything from an inexpensive alternative to a Nissan Primera minicab, to an odd looking supermini, in the hope that the MG badge will make it interesting and somehow relevant.

      The “M” cars of the 80’s were a real glimmer of hope, as was the ZT, but this is just awful and a very ending for the brand.

      The fact that a small design facility is tailoring largely Chinese designed cars to the European market (while also helping the Chinese to fill in skill gaps so that they can better design cars to compete with our own local producers) doesn’t really sound like such a wonderful thing to me.

      Still, it’s cheap, it has a mythical badge that harks from the era of quatermass (or earlier) and who cares if it’s as convincing as a Chinese Rolex – it must mean “The Return of MG” (again!!).

      • It does seem the Chinese have a habit of re inventing British brands. I notice Baird, a name familiar to anyone who rented Radio Rentals televisions, has made a reappearance on Chinese made televisions in Brighthouse, and the electrical brand Bush has been successfully reinvented by the Chinese. It’s likely if MG is developed properly by the Chinese and they make decent products at a competitive price, this could be as successful as Chinese Bush products.

        • Also a lot of old brands have been bought by retailers for own brand products, Alba is used by Argos & Ferguson was used at one time by Currys.

        • Not quite correct Glenn. Bush was not re-invented by the Chinese, Argos (when under the HRG banner) bought the rights to the name in 2008. Argos then developed a range of Bush products, the vast majority of which were manufactured in China.

  3. A couple of local ex-Rover family run dealers have became MG dealers, I’ve noticed a lot more MGs on the roads even just from these 2 dealers. 6s are a rarity, but a lot of 3s, GSs and new ZSs.

    Where national marketing and advertising have failed, local business has succeeded. An antidote to where the rest of the industry are headed – soulless glass-and-steel out of town retail park hangers without the personal level of customer care or service.

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