Steven Ward, a serial MG and Rover buyer, ponders on whether he’ll take the plunge and buy a new MG6 when it goes on sale. Rumours abound, here he outlines his concerns.
Well, as the days roll by, a doubt over one question grows ever larger. Will I ever buy an MG6? The answer, at this moment, is a resounding ‘No’. However, that hasn’t always been my stance – as a lifelong, die-hard enthusiast of all things associated with BL, the answer, even nearly a year ago, was an emphatic ‘Yes’.
Sadly, the passage of time, wisdom and whispers have all got to me. We’re all used to badly-timed Longbridge launches. Usually too late, sometimes too early, rarely are they just right. This one looks going to be as delayed as the Maestro was. I believe there is more than one comparison to be made with our favourite, frumpy hatchback too.
This time a year ago, Autocar did a First Drive story on a pre-production model and the MG6 got a good review. Much was made of the competent chassis – it was always going to be that thanks to Andy Kitson and his colleagues. The amount of design and engineering work which was done in the UK was also said to be significant. That made me feel good – the best of MGR was back in business and actually producing new designs for us.
The MG6 looked good too, not striking or breathtaking, but smart, modern, sober, narrowly avoiding the melted bloat of the Astra and Megane. Indeed, seeing the car in the metal, the design was just as commendable. The MG6 is, though, oddly sized and seemingly straddles the Focus and Mondeo C and D-segments. You’d have though that Longbridge would have learnt from 1800/Maxi/Maestro/400/75, but no, they’re playing the unintentional heritage card.
The glass area is limited, a bit like the 75’s, meaning visibility won’t be top notch while the inside will be a bit gloomy. That’s a long way from what Spen King would have signed off, but that’s fashion and it must be followed. What really concerns me about the styling is whether the car will still look as fresh when it’s eventually launched. We’ve been seeing the car undisguised now for over a year and Ford has just knocked its latest Focus blockbuster out, which means rivals will be looking at facelifts.
Most of the feedback from the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where people got to handle the car, was positive. I must point out here that MG posted 2000 complementary tickets out to those who registered their interest – very good of them.
What struck me under the bonnet of MG6 was the lack of the 75’s secondary bulkhead. I know this car is supposed to be all-new, but the MG6 shares the 75’s front subframe and is clearly derived from the 75. Deleting this bit of engineering suggests SAIC Motor are moving the car down market. That secondary bulkhead was for refinement and for body strength, but undoubtedly it cost money and added weight.
Surprisingly, that bulkhead couldn’t hide the worst excesses of the rough K-Series engine in the 75, so I’m not expecting top-draw refinement from the MG6 and neither am I expecting the strength of 75 in the car’s new body. The rear hatch will reduce body strength along with the deletion of the aforementioned bulkhead. What, given all that, therefore surprises me is that the car weighs as much as a quality loaded 75.
There is now a rumour going around that the Chinese cannot reliably manufacture variable strength steel sections which give phenomenal strength when used with various state of the art welding techniques in manufacture and that, as a consequence, the MG6 is going for Victorian-spec steel in order to obtain the required strength. That doesn’t sound good for an emissions-based taxation country like ours.
The engine itself is said to all-new but, in reality, it’s just an overhauled K-Series up to Euro 4 specification and in a turbocharged format. The cylinder head is said to be new and it needed to be. I believe the original head was flawed in design meaning it ran too hot, hence the failures. The head gasket is the uprated item, but that of itself hardly news – it was designed during the Phoenix era and was a copy of the old T-Series fix. We’ve noticed these gaskets now are starting to fail but, hopefully, combined with the new head and bottom bearing ladder, it should last a bit longer.
I was shocked to note the inlet manifold is still the useless moulded plastic item, although it’s said to have a new, improved inlet gasket. Let’s hope this third revision of the inlet gasket works this time – previously this common failure caused a lot of head gaskets to pop. Furthermore, I don’t believe the N-Series runs a fly-by-wire throttle which was supposed to be required to get K-Series to Euro4 emissions spec. I also expect the turbo installation to have better plumbing this time around as the last effort seemed like a hasty botch job when you got stuck into it – as you often had to do…
I’m reassured by a senior Longbridge man that the N-Series in TF2 is now a very good and very reliable engine and I honestly believe him. I’m also told that the TF2 Design Team took a lot of the engineering flaws and shortcuts in original TF and properly re-engineered them for TF2.
Again, I fully believe this engineer, but will the build quality of MG6’s many components be manufactured to the designed standard time after time? Building a virtually new car is a lot more involved than reverse-engineering a low-build sports car, despite Longbridge’s best intentions.
I also find it odd that car doesn’t seem to have appeared at any Western Motor Shows – if they car was so British, so new and so good, then why is it almost obscured from civilised view? Goodwood and MPH are not really a world stage for a bold new beginning. The Dealer Network hardly inspires confidence either. Most were signed-up during the brief NAC stewardship of Longbridge and seem, well, a bit amateurish, a bit disjointed and bit uninterested in it all. That’s assuming you can find one as they’re very thin on the ground, although I understand more Dealers are on the way.
However, will those Dealers be any good when customers are buying this new car? By the way, does anyone know how much MG6 will cost? Speculation as to the pricing seems to vary wildly from sub-Korean bargain basement right up to stiff Golf/Focus price shadowing. Does MG Motor UK actually have an idea or will it be subject to the crazy initial pricing of TF2 before settling down to a more realistic level? What about technical support? Has the company got back all the Consultant Engineers to handle dealer enquiries and warranty issues?
Customers must be kept happy and reassured by their unquestionable gamble of a purchase. Dealers will need to be kept in the loop too with regard to sales and service updates. Again, I’ve met such a man in Longbridge doing this job whom I believe in, but he’ll need to surround himself with a crack team. News that MG are going across to GM’s Technical Team seems to just be a sound bite at this point.
Next we get to the launch date and delivery times. When is it?
How much longer will the stalling last and exactly why are they stalling? Again, the rumour mill is alight with chatter of the MG6 failing to win the vitally important European Type Approval. While this is quite common on all new cars, usually on mere technicalities, it is said that the MG6 failed on ‘quality’. What that means, I’m not so sure, but it doesn’t sound good, does it?
That could go some way to explaining the lack of dates and prices. The interior I sat in felt fine, nothing special but certainly half-decent. However, what it’s like when crashed could be something else entirely. Finally, how British will the build be? I’ve heard, again nothing certain, that MG6 assembly will be very limited at Longbridge, that the cars come over from China along way down the assembly tracks and that it’s only the final bits and pieces of trim which will be added at Longbridge.
You’re looking at Workstation 39 out of around 63, which means it’s painted, glazed, wired, etc. Now, I’ve been at Longbridge when the journey of K-Series from Cofton to CAB2 was too far for quality to be consistent. Anyway, this lack of true assembly rumour seems well-founded as there has been no large recruitment drive of late, if at all.
Mind you, if there is no diesel or auto on offer, sales won’t be huge anyway. Last week, What Car? took along a select group of potential owners to look at MG6. Not to drive, just to look at. However, as a salesman, you’re taught to get customers behind the wheel and out for a drive. Why wasn’t this the case here? What Car? clinics usually involve at least a quick spin. Do you think those potential customers left with a brochure under their arm? I ask because even that essential piece of marketing and brand-building is strangely absent, even the online example has suffered a technical hitch.
Anyway, with all that running through my mind, I’d now be exceptionally reluctant to buy one. Suppose I did take the plunge, what would the actual quality as opposed to perceived quality and long term reliability be like? I’ve heard conflicting reports on TF2 and it seems to me that quality was improved on everyone they built, but then it needed to be! Some of the plastics, electrics and welds were said to be very poor and that multiple and repeat parts were needed for some cars to be right. I believe that, in order to win consumer confidence over this and the K-series issues, the MG6 really needs to have a five-year warranty – after all, it’s a new car which is supposed to use proven, but admittedly updated, technology.
What if I decided MG6 was no good for me, could I get out of it? What would residuals be like? Nobody really knows as no car company has gone bust and come back before, let alone back from China. It doesn’t help that there is not a lot, if any, of geeky, hardcore technical information to chew on – Facebook doesn’t count. Finally, parts supply… Wasn’t there an announcement late last year that the parts operation for TF and MG6 had been taken back in house?
I remember when that was subcontracted to Cat Logistics and it was a nightmare – line picks from Longbridge were the order of the day if you got lucky. I was present at the fiasco when Phoenix shut the doors and left Caterpillar high and dry and I genuinely despaired for them. Rover parts supply has been a hit and miss affair for 10 years now and that is wrong on so many levels.
I sincerely hope the rumours I’ve just recounted are just that, rumours and that my doubts are totally unfounded. MG has a terrific network of enthusiast clubs on which to draw on for goodwill and to use as unpaid ambassadors. They should be used to good effect and to spread The Word, but that means wholly embracing them. Until the big day, we’ll just have to continue to wait and see what we’re offered.
Incidentally, since writing the above, I have learned that MG Motor UK was supposed to be running MG6 Training Sessions for Technicians from the Dealer Network but I’ve not, as yet, heard whether these Training Sessions even went ahead. However, the MG6 has had its first public viewing in the Dealer Network. A dealer in Suffolk threw an invite only party to preview the vehicle but it is not known if prices or delivery dates were mentioned or even if Test Drives were given.
Finally, and quite bizarrely, MG Motor UK are themselves now asking for 250 volunteers to help with the launch of the MG6. They seem to be basing everything around Facebook which, if Goodwood was anything to go by, will exclude most of the MG6’s demographic…