Blog : Middle Eastern MG encounter

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Morris Garages - interesting branding, and at least in touch with MG's heritage
Morris Garages - interesting branding, and at least in touch with MG's heritage

One of the frustrating aspects of my past few months’ captivity due to my broken bones has been my inability to travel. Don’t get me wrong, I like being at home, working in the office and taking gentle strolls in the green and pleasant meadows of middle England, but I love travelling more. And taking away my ability to stray away from home for too long has been a bit like Purgatory for me. So, it was a blessed relief to receive a clean bill of health from my surgeon recently – I could get back on to the road. And that’s what I’ve been doing. And then some.

A whistle-stop trip to San Diego followed by a drive through the desert in a Jaguar XKR-S was a great kick-off for the healthier me. A further two flights saw me land in Kuwait for visit to the Concours – and, in the (admittedly brief) downtime I had, I thought it would be rude not to visit the local MG dealer and see what the Middle-Eastern line-up looked like in the metal. First thing’s first, it’s a very different range of cars offered in Kuwait to what is on offer here in the UK – basically, they have a range, and we don’t.

The cars are an interesting mix of Roewes badged as MGs and proper MGs. The MG750 (nee Roewe 750) was in evidence both in pre- and post-facelift guise and, in the context of the land we were in, looked smart and understated – I wouldn’t doubt for a second that they would appeal to the more conservative buyer looking for a traditional saloon. Having a poke around, the first thing that surprised me was the quality of the paintwork and overall fit and finish – it was excellent. The pre-facelift car (identified by its lack of wraparound headlamp/indicators) looked the pick of the bunch, as the later car’s units seemed a little bit cheap to look at.

Inside, the deep-seated quality feel of the old Rover 75 seems to be missing and, although the one-piece dash looks modern, it lacks character. And the switchgear works well, but somehow feels undistinguished. The additional rear seat legroom’s welcome, though, as is the additional boot-room – both of which have been added without upsetting the 75’s design too much. I do think it’s a shame that SAIC never sent the 75 back to the UK in 2007, though, and although it would have been ridiculed by the press and Top Gear, it would have found a market here – perhaps keeping the flame alive more effectively through the loyal dealers (and their customers), many of whom have since melted away.

The 550 and MG6, I think, continue to look smart and both work better visually as saloons. It’s interesting to see the two alongside each other because, although the 550 came first, it’s the ‘6 that works far better – to me, anyway. And in Kuwait, the ‘6 looks really appealing – and in a land where fuel costs 17p per litre, no one cares that it does 30mpg.

As for the 350, it’s a small saloon cast in the mould of the Triumph Acclaim or four-door Vauxhall Nova, and I can’t really see it working in Europe at all. Which is probably why they don’t bring it in. Looking closely around it, the fit and finish of the body are good and the interior is well screwed together, but the whole ensemble lacks any character and personality at all. And that’s why it shouldn’t wear an MG badge – Roewe works well enough, so why pollute the far more valuable MG marque with such atrocious badge-engineering. Still, the MG5 is based on it – and looks like a very different proposition entirely.

Slightly worrying for MG Morris Garages is that, in my four days spent out and about on the Kuwait roads, I only saw one Roewe 750 and it was close to the dealer. And on the day I visited, I didn’t see another customer or, indeed, a salesman. I guess rebuilding takes time. I don’t mind the branding at all, though, and if anything, it looks a whole lot classier than the UK’s white and red effort. Also prominently using the Morris Garages branding works for a traditionalist like me.

Additionally, that gives SAIC the option of selling the non-sporting models under the Morris flag of convenience instead of Roewe (which AROnline readers don’t get on with). After all, Daewoos can be sold as Chevrolets here… so why not Morris?

As in the UK, the Middle Eastern MG operation seems to be in its infancy, and consequently pretty quiet. But the dealer, which was located in the same area as Audi, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz looked set for expansion if needed and did, at least, have a range of cars for sale that fit in with what locals are buying. And that’s more than you can say about poor MG Birmingham, which is still stuck with a single model range and inappropriate, if smooth petrol engine. Things will change, and I still have high hopes that MG will become a big success – because China will make sure that it does.

 

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

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58 Comments

  1. “As well as offering the option of selling the non-sporting models under the Morris flag of convenience instead of Roewe (which AROnline readers don’t get on with).”

    I do. 🙂

  2. I think the 750 looks better in those shots, than the ones we had a few months ago.
    It looks a little VAG-esque inside…not a bad thing really if you’re Mr Average.
    Still reckon the 550 was hit with the ugly stick though…

  3. BSD

    The white MG550 on the 2nd picture looks just like the MG550 that was sold here in Israel (and that will be sold again once it comples with Euro 5).

    The UK Magnette has the front of the MG6 and it’s analog dashboard,while the MG550 has the front of Roewe 550 and it’s bizzare digital dashboard (Saic calls it “Silverstone” beause they think that it resembles in it’s shape the spirit of the Silverstone racetrack…).

    By the way Keith,at which arab country were the pictures taken?

  4. BSD

    Thank’s Mark!

    I read the article again and you are right.

    And i recall that last year Keith visited Kuwait,so i guess that the pics are from that visit.

    Thw 750 looks good,shame it does not comply with Euro 5,i really would like to see it on Israeli roads!

  5. BSD

    A question to you guys.

    Which front treatment do you think suits the Magnette/550 more-the front of the UK magnette (like the MG6),or that of the MG550 shown above (the white MG550 that looks just like the Roewe 550)?

    Also,what do you think suits it more-the analog dashboard of the UK models,or the digital dash og the MG/Rowew 550?

    I enclose a link to Saic’s english website/gallery.
    There are 2 rows of pics-at the bottom row,the right pic shows the digital dashboard.

    What’s your opinion?

  6. MG6 Front is alot nicer than the 550. Looks a bit cheap and unfinished; the 550. Dash, dunno, would have to SEE them properly to decide.

  7. BSD

    I think like you,Mark.

    The front of the UK Magnette i way more beautifull than the strange front of the MG550.

    Regarding the dashboard,when the Magnette was inntroduced and i saw that it has the sporty analog dash of the MG6,i asked Keith,and he confirmed that the Magnette indeed has the dashboard of the Magnette.

    The MG550 that was sold in Israel had the digital dashborad,and i do not have a clue why a sport oriented car should have such bizzare dash!

    I know that the chinese love these things,but-there is a limit to lack of taste!

  8. The only slight niggle I have is around teh badging.

    Would it have cost them that much more to make dedicatd MG grilles rather than stick a fabricated badge into a Rover-shaped recepticle? As I say, only a slight niggle but points a wee bit towards laziness.

    Nice cars though, if they had sold the MG7/750 here along with the MG3/Streetwise a lot earlier they would have some sort of foothold in the UK & Europe by now.

  9. I still wonder why the Chinese didnt try selling the r75 in the UK…was it substandard? looks the part though… I like the faclifted R75 (v8) grill. alex

  10. I’m not sure if the 750 would get that great a rating on the EuroNCap, after all it was designed in the 90s. This would be a huge block to sales of it.

    The grey example looks elegant, but the white 750 really shows the new bootlid – I think I prefer the Rover original, even if it was a bit droopy in comparison!
    They are reminiscent of the Skoda Superb (which itself was based on the Chinese LWB Passat). Must be the long wheelbase.

  11. i do like the 750 still looks good and i think it would work over here theres loads of older 75’s around and that mg 750 with the 2.5 v6 would work ok maybe the 2.5 v6 might get looked on as a monster of a engine but if it was branded as the i-v6 that might work as we all seem to be mad about eco friendly things i love it and if i could get one i would

  12. The 750 doesn’t quite do it for me….bit of a ‘Frankenstein’ effort IMO you can see the elegance of the Rover 75 beneath the stitching and bolts through the neck somehow?

    Others look good though, it’s great seeing the name ‘Morris’ in modern font and in 2012

  13. I think the 550 looks too ill conceived in that the MG badge is literally stuck on in place of a Roewe one, this smacks of the old Rover shaped Maestro and Montego badges. I like the look of the 550 but it’s needs at least a new grille with an incorporated MG badge to make it credible. As for the MG6, I think it houses the MG badge much better but in honesty the 550 has a more pleasing frontal appearance that appears better finished. As for the 750 – well it just looks like a horribly mutilated 75, the new back end and lights do not blend with the basic 75 shape, just as the 2003 facelifts didn’t gel either. The interior is interesting, and had it appeared back in 2003 in the Uk it could have made the 75 a little less twee and more contemporary but in 2012 it looks out of place yet again. One thing is for sure IMO, if this car was ever brought to the UK (which i don’t imagine it ever will be) it would damage any prospect for MG to move forward and break the shackles of it’s often deservedly tarnished past.

  14. @Jason 1.8tc, Agree on the Morris thing, wonder if they would do this in the UK, in a way it seems to add extra weight to the MG name accompanying it.

  15. What I find amusing is that it is not OK for MG to sell a 750 here and yet it is OK for Seat to have the Exeo which is essentially an old Audi. Strange.

    Branding wise what we have here in the ME is a mess. There needs to be some sort of consistency. Looks promising to see Chinese cars out there though, natural market I would have thought.

  16. Another good read Keith, Interesting to see other countries approach to the MG brand.
    Also how they are selling a range of model’s instead of the single one.

  17. BSD

    @21.James-
    You write that you like the look of the 550.

    I wonder if you will think that way once you will look at the bizzare digital dashboard.

    In reply no.10 i forgot to enclose a link to Saic’s english site,at which you can see a pic of the digital interior of the MG550.

    the link is http://www.saicmg.com/english/mg550/photo/
    The bottom right pic shows the digital dashboard.

    Look and tell me what you think…

    Here in Israel we received the MG550 with the digital dashboard and the front like in the above pic of the the white MG550.

    Believe me that after seeing the front of the Magnette and it’s analog dashboard (just like those of the MG6),those of the MG550 are uncomparable!

    the Magnette looks more homologated,and it’s analog dashboard suits a sporty saloon like the Magnette!

    I only wish that once the import og the MG550 to israel will be renewed (one it will comply with euro 5),it will look like the UK Magnettead not like how it used to look like (chinese MG550).

    Maybe the chinese like these stiles (they have a rather bizzare taste…),but,by no means does it suit a sporty saloon meant to be sold worldwide!

  18. Nice to see a range of cars, I can aggree with other coments that the MG 750 needs a bootlip spolier, yes also and been noted on other blogs that Morris badge fitted instead of the Rowew will promote the MG brand denoting its heritage. its a shame that the 750 or 550 not available in this country, I would love to own a 750, also I feel that ex Rover 75/45 buying public would consider purchacing those range of cars. Great feature, Regards Mark

  19. BSD

    I also enclose link to Israeli MG website that seems to be operative again http://www.mg-israel.co.il/.

    In the website menu (toolbar) choose the button that wtites in hebrew גלריה (meaning gallery).

    The upper right and left pics show the whole of the digital dashboard.

    After seeing it,try to compare it to the sporty analog dash of the UK Magnette…

  20. I agree with the Morris sentiment. Roewe would not work in the UK, using the Morris badge would:
    – Allow Roewes to be sold in the UK
    – Provide MG with a range of ‘softer’ / more traditional vehicles vs. the sportier focus of MG
    – Tie in with MG being Morris Garages
    – For all the damage the Marina/Ital did to the brand, I do think that people think of Morris with rose tinted glasses, thinking or Minors and wood panelled estates
    – Offer a wider range of small / diesel engines, without diluting the MG sporting image

  21. If the product was right the name “Roewe” would work. Whats wrong with it? Its better than “Kia” for a start. (As a digrssion, why do we call Hyundai Hi-un-dai when the yanks call it Hun-day? Another stupid brand name whichever way you pronounce it!)

  22. BSD

    @delboy-

    The main dealership is in tel-aviv,and a few others in big cities outside Tel-Aviv.

    Unlike UK,here in Israel there is only one sole importer for each make of cars,mostly located in Tel-Aviv,and in cities outside Tel-Aviv there are dealerships with garages,that are authorised to sell and service the specific car brand they are authorised to.

    For instance,MG’s importer is also the sole importer of Peugeot (cars&scooters),Citroen and KTM.

  23. Good point Russel, some marques like Hyundai have done well with an unknown name.

    However I personally don’t think they should use Roewe for the following reasons:
    – It doesn’t roll off the tonque. Names like Kia and Hy-un-dai are easy to say, Roewe is a bit of a mess. (Peugeot can be forgiven as it is a genuine French surname).
    – Those in the know know it is a contrived name, and hence will always know it as a fake Rover.
    – It looks too close to the name Rover (which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but just gives it an air of knockoff like those Tommy HilFinger and Kevin Cline counterfeits down the dodgy market stalls).
    – They own mainstream marques Morris (to tie in to MG) and Austin

    For pronunciation, those who say “eXantia” used to grate me 🙂
    And I do like the NZ pronunctiation of Subaru, UK is soo-bir-oo, NZ is Soob-arru.

  24. To be fair to Hyundai, they started off selling cheap cars that were tripe (Pony), but over the years the product has got much better (plus they offer a decent warranty). I don’t think the “Roewe” name would be an issue, its the quality and the marketing of the product which will kill it stone dead if SAIC’s efforts with MG are anything to go by (I saw my first MG6 on the M6 in the West Midlands a couple of weeks ago!)

  25. What a shame we cant get these MG7’s and so called MG550’s here in the UK – despite the modified MG logo on top of old Rover shaped badges! I dont mind the look of the Roewe / MG550 and still love the 750 with that square grille.

  26. BSD

    @Jason1.8TC
    If you looked at the pics of the MG550’s interior,what do you think of it’s digital dashboard,compared to the Magnette’s analog dashboard?

  27. I think the 750 especially but also the 550 look good and desirable. I’ve just bought a facelift Rover 75 tourer (to replace a much loved Saab 95) and it is surprising how big the gaps are between the front bumper/grill assembly and the bonnet and lights. No such gaps appear on the 750.
    Yes, it is a shame they haven’t and won’t import or assemble it here, but perhaps its’ eventual replacement stands a chance. Morris seems to be the best bet for non-sporting versions badge-wise. Wolseley is a bit over the hill although it might lend a bit of gravitas if they decide to go really up-market.

  28. BSD

    @Keith
    I think that it should be the other way around.
    Roewe-which is the “Luxurius” brand should have the digital dash,and MG-which is the sport oriented brand should have the analog dash.

  29. Digital dashs are ok if done right, I think the digi one on the MG550 is too much for me, I prefer a subtle look ala Citroen C4 Picassos, Scenics etc.

    I think that quality car manufacturers don’t use digi dials for a reason…..

  30. BSD

    @Jason1.8TC
    Regarding quality car manufacturers,You’ve got a strong point there…

    Although i think that the reason Saic are using the digital dash in the MG550 is because the chinese have a rather flamboyant taste…

    Another thing that i do not understand with Saic is that in their website (the one you like…),there is the MG550 with the digital dash and the MG6 in 4 doors saloon version-which is identical to the UK Magnette,except for the analog dashboard that has a different (and to my taste-less sporty) design of the dials.

    Why have 2 identical cars with 2 different names,2 different front designs and 2 different dashboards?

    Since the MG550 is exactly like the Roewe 550,they should have only the Roewe 550,and the MG6 saloon.

    Why complicate?

    After all,even if the MG550 is pure badge engineer,still, badge engineer costs money (it’s not only the MG badges outside but also all the symbols inside-MG instead of Roewe).

    Why complicate?

  31. That website is just bizarre. Check out their intro to the MG3. Apparently Kate Moss and David Beckham both love the MG3. Hilarious stuff:

    “A British style supermini,A British supermini adored by royalty,A British supermini with an 80 year history,A British supermini subject to 80 years of constant innovation and reformation,A British supermini treasured by David Beckham, Kate Moss and other fashion pioneers,A British supermini dreamed of by several generations,The brand new MG 3, a British supermini having created an 80-year legend, is unveiled in 2011.”

  32. The Roewe 750 still looks a very attractive car although I doubt it would sell that well in the UK now, even with an MG badge on it. This car needs to attract new buyers, not those who currently drive an MG or Rover or existing enthusiasts, in order to make sales viable in the UK. It really is too old now to make an impact with badge-snob conscious UK buyers.

    Instead, let us rejoice in the fact that in terms of interior well-being and exterior presence, we had the best in the form of the Rover 75. The current MG and Roewe versions, in my oppinion, have never bettered it in the five years that SAIC have been tinkering with it.

  33. The thing that I’m drawing from this is that UK (and European) success isn’t necessarily required within Europe. Hence the slow introduction of a full model range and a diesel model. MG isn’t a British brand, it’s a Chinese global brand.

  34. Forgot to add in my last comment (36) that I like those 7 spoke alloys on the MG7 too… still looks very much an Executive saloon.

  35. Hi Keith, nice photos. I’ve just got back from filming in Riyadh and noticed two MG dealers in the city, one right in the centre of the city by the posh shopping malls. By the time I got there it was closed so didn’t get a chance to sit in the cars and come away with brochures, but took quite a few pics. Don’t know if I can upload here though?

    Huge Union Jacks on the side of the building by the MG branding, had some Roewe’s there too, but they do look awful next to the ex MGR designs. The cars had where the number plates will be, MG branding with the words “born in England”. Not sure if the Chinese are that bothered about trade descriptions.

    Must admit though, I didn’t see a single MG or Roewe on the road the whole time I was there! There was however loads of Chrysler 300C’s though, a car that look a bit like…….a Rover P5 perhaps? Maybe they do like Rover styling after all then…..

    Richard Wolley’s version is still the best rendition of the last (to date) Rover, though I did like Peter Stevens update, both underrated designers in my opinion.

  36. “The pre-facelift car (identified by its lack of wraparound headlamp/indicators) looked the pick of the bunch, as the later car’s units seemed a little bit cheap to look at.”

    Much like the original 75 then.

    I do like the new boot on the 75 saloon, i never quite liked it on the old saloons, looked too droopy and always felt it let the design down a bit, the front edge of the 75’s wing always looked like a bit of an after thought too.

    The boot on the orignal 75’s is probably why i always think the Estate was a more polished looking design.

  37. The badges in the Rover shiled just smack of a cheap nasty manufacturer who doesn’t care. I couldn’t buy a car with it like that. And what have they done to the 750… oh dear

  38. “The badges in the Rover shiled just smack of a cheap nasty manufacturer who doesn’t care.”

    You mean like Rover Group in the early 90’s then. They did exactly the same thing with the Mini, Metro, Maestro and Montego badges….. Or of course GM who just squash square vauxhall badges into a rounded shape so they can stick them in a hole designed for an Opel badge….

    Still who says an MG badge can’t be mounted on or with-in a shield. Badges and insignia have been mounted and painted onto shields for centuries.

    Admittedly though for what it cost them to mould an insert to go in the shield backing,(it looks a bit like it may be stamped stainless steel), it would have cost no more just to make a different shape badge and stick it on.

    Still if the badge was the worst thing you could find to complain about, the car can’t be too bad.

  39. Dennis… no Rover Group and Vauxhalls efforts looked/look at least credible… these look tacky and nasty, bit like the “facelifts” and the cars.

    Shame they can’t stick to one colour scheme too for the mG badge, old style here, none colour here and redish over in the UK

  40. “Dennis… no Rover Group and Vauxhalls efforts looked/look at least credible… these look tacky and nasty”

    Well i disagree, the old Grey ‘metro’ ones looked no better or worse than these. Even the 2000 onwards Rover and MG badges used to fade in the sun after a couple of years, that REALLY DOES look tacky. However i get the impression no matter what they did you’d think the MG’s looked tacky and nasty.

    “why dont they get the 750 over here to the uk and badge it a mg they are bound to sell”

    Well realistically speaking it’s still a 14 year old car design underneath, if they’d done that in 2004, then it would sold well, sadly MGR didn’t have the cash. Let’s be honest the original 75 didn’t sell all that well either.

  41. Actually it was the MG badges that used to peel due to the poor French supplier. The Rover badges do not fade. Quite right I do think the current MG range looks tacky apart from the MG6 which looks fine but doesn’t sell as MG Motor don’t advertise it!

    Actually the Rover 75 and MG ZT sold quite well, more so than the entire Roewe/MG series

  42. “The Rover badges do not fade”
    They do on the boots of Rover 75’s…… and the later Revamped Rover badge MGR introduced was worse still. All the Rover Badges came from the same supplier in France, but you can’t blame the supplier, Rover got to choose who made their badges after all and signed off what they were going to be made of.

    Well very clearly the R75 didn’t sell anywhere near well, or we would still have an MG-Rover group. Much as i liked them, the fact is they didn’t sell well, just pick someone in the street who isn’t a Rover enthusiast and try convincing them to buy one, they’re not interested, they’ll tell you they’re old man’s cars.

    “Quite right I do think the current MG range looks tacky apart from the MG6 which looks fine but doesn’t sell as MG Motor don’t advertise it!”

    Well there you go, you’ll find anything to complain about on them.
    Personally i don’t i don’t think they look any more Tacky than an Opel or a Mondeo and i don’t see a problem with having a shield with an MG logo on it. If you’ve never seen a Roewe or Rover (which there is a fair chance potential buyers haven’t) then you’d think nothing of the shield. BL used to put Austin badges in a rectangle in bold font, Austin purists might complain the Austin name should be in a script form….

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