Words: Clive Goldthorp Photographs: Simon Davies/Pegasus Photographics
The Media Briefing which MG Motor UK Limited hosted at the MG Birmingham site last Tuesday provided the 30 or so Journalists in attendance with hard evidence that the countdown to the long-awaited UK launch of the MG6 Fastback and Saloon has now begun in earnest.
The company’s Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones, kicked the Media Briefing off with a short, but detailed presentation which covered the following key topics:
MG Birmingham Today
AROnline’s regular readers who recall the MG Birmingham: Brimming with British design and engineering talent story which we ran last June will remember that two of SAIC Motor Corporation Limited’s (SAIC Motor) subsidiary companies are now located on the 60 acre MG Birmingham site: MG Motor UK Limited (MG Motor UK), which employs 100 workers in manufacturing and sales, and SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre Limited (SMTC UK), which employs 275 Engineers and includes SAIC Motor’s European Design Centre where 25 Designers have responsibility for the exterior and interior design of all global MG models from initial concept and virtual reality through to full size 3D capability.
The current facilities at MG Birmingham represent a major commitment to the UK on the part of SAIC Motor – a £45.0m capital investment has been made since the purchase of the assets but, added to that, are the overheads in operating the facility (including the cost of employing 400 members of staff) and the £100s of millions devoted to the development of new products.
SAIC Motor’s current £5.0m investment programme at MG Birmingham centres on the construction of an Engine Test Facility which should be fully operational during Q2/2011. MG Motor UK aims to provide market-leading Aftersales support and, to that end, has created the Cecil Kimber Training College, where Technicians from the Dealer Network are trained to use the latest diagnostics technology, and a new European parts warehouse for the MG6 on the site.
SAIC Motor And The Chinese Car Market
SAIC Motor is China’s largest OEM and, with total sales of 3.58m vehicles in 2010, one of the world’s Top 10 car manufacturers. SAIC Motor’s Joint Ventures (JVs) with the Volkswagen Group (Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Company Limited (SVW)) and General Motors (Shanghai General Motors Company Limited (SGM)) are, respectively, the number one and number three automotive JVs in China while SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle Company Limited (SMPV), which produces SAIC Motor’s own, self-developed MG and Roewe models, built and sold 160,000 units across both brands in 2010.
The Western business media may have been charting SAIC Motor’s growth for some years but most UK and European consumers still remain largely unaware of the scale and success of SAIC Motor’s operations in China. However, that all looks set to change with the UK launch of the MG6 and the roll-out of SAIC Motor’s Global Product Plan.
SAIC Motor’s Global Product Plan For 2011 And Beyond
SMPV has already launched the D-segment MG6 Fastback and Saloon, C-segment Roewe 350 and D-segment Roewe 550 as well as a mild hybrid version of the Rover 75-based Roewe 750 in China while, in addition to the UK launch of the petrol-engined MG6 Fastback and Saloon, the B-segment MG3 will hit MG Dealers’ showrooms in China during the current year.
The company has also made a substantial commitment to the development of Low Energy Vehicles (LEVs) and has a world-leading JV with us battery and battery management manufacturer A123 Systems called Shanghai Advanced Traction Battery Systems Company Limited (ATBS). 1000 SAIC Motor-built LEVs were in operation at EXPO 2010 and the company plans to launch a series of plug-in hybrid and full electric models from 2012 onwards.
SAIC Motor’s Business Strategy For MG
Guy Jones summed this up succinctly as ‘quality underpinning profitable growth.’ However, the delivery of that objective depends, in turn, upon three key deliverables: a high quality product, a high quality brand image and a high quality and unique customer experience. The issue of the new MGs’ quality has been the subject of much debate within the BMC>MG Internet community so MG Motor UK’s take on what constitutes a high quality product merits closer scrutiny.
MG Motor UK believes that the new family of MGs, from the MG6 onwards, will be high quality products because they are being designed and engineered in the UK for the world market, built in a world-class manufacturing facility with final assembly in the UK, will feature desirable British styling as well as engaging driving dynamics and will offer high standard specifications and value.
Guy Jones left those present at the Media Briefing in no doubt that SAIC Motor understands the iconic nature of the MG marque – he referenced MG’s history in Motor Racing and Land Speed Record breaking and drew a parallel with the recent successes of other famous British automotive brands such as Aston Martin, Bentley, Land Rover, Jaguar, MINI and Rolls-Royce which are all now owned by foreign OEMs. The guys at MG Motor UK clearly intend, over time, to match or even exceed that level of success…
SAIC Motor also recognises the passion which many MG enthusiasts around the world have for the marque and, with that very much in mind, Guy Jones and the Sales and Marketing Team at MG Motor UK have set themselves the objective of ensuring that the owners of the new family of MGs enjoy ‘an ownership experience to love.’
The Launch Plan For The MG6 Fastback And Saloon
This week’s Media Briefing, in fact, marked the start of the final phase of MG Motor UK’s Pre-Launch Plan and centred on the unveiling of MG’s new corporate identity (CI) and the first UK showing of the MG6 Saloon which you can read about in Adam Sloman’s article, MG’s Media Briefing: New ideas, new metal and a new beginning.
However, while the MG6 Fastback will be available for media First Drives and Road Tests from mid-March, the full Launch Plan starts in mid-April when the first cars arrive hit the MG Dealer Network’s showrooms and potential customers will be offered Test Drives. The MG6 Fastback’s ‘Official Public Launch’ has been scheduled for mid-May while the MG6 Saloon will be available for media First Drives and Road Tests in mid-June prior to going on sale in mid-July.
The marketing campaign, which will run in parallel with the Launch Plan started with last Tuesday’s switchover to MG Motor UK’s new website and key elements to be rolled out over the coming months include a television advertising campaign and the release of a brand film on the Internet. The television commercial and brand film are both being produced by Ridley Scott Associates and are in production now.
The message which the television commercial and brand film are set to communicate is that the MG marque ‘has a famous past but now it’s back with British style, British driving dynamics and with the backing of one of the world’s largest car manufacturers.’ AROnline understands that the television commercial and brand film will feature the ground-breaking use of the small-format Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera which shoots HD video – our Photographer, Simon Davies, certainly seems to be pretty excited about this camera’s use in a commercial environment…
The really significant news for MG and Motor Racing enthusiasts alike will probably be that an announcement of a Motor Racing Sponsorship Programme has been scheduled for the beginning of March – MG’s renewed involvement in Motor Racing will centre on this year’s five-race Le Mans Series but you will need to come back to AROnline for more information about that in another few weeks.
The final, major facet of MG Motor UK’s Launch Plan for the MG6 will be the expansion of the Dealer Network – there are currently 39 MG Dealers who have been selling the batch-built TF since September, 2008 but the company’s Sales and Marketing Department have identified a total of 45 open points which they aim to fill. Guy Jones disclosed that he and his colleagues are in discussions with 23 prospective new franchisees at present and that he hopes to have a total of 50 in the Dealer Network by the end of this year.
Adam Sloman will be covering the unveiling of MG’s new corporate identity (CI) and the new MG6 Saloon as well as the quick tour of the General Assembly Hall which the media representatives were given in his exclusive interview. However, after that, we had a quick Q&A Session with Guy Jones and a brief chat with Tony Williams-Kenny on his new role as SMPV’s Design Director.
The specific points confirmed by Guy Jones during the Q&A Session were as follows:
- the diesel-engined versions of the MG6 Fastback and Saloon will be launched during H2/2012
- MG6 Fastback production starts on the 15th April, 2011 with deliveries commencing a month later
- the MG6 Saloon will be priced slightly above the MG6 Fastback
- Guy Jones worked for Kia Motors UK Limited for four years but MG Motor UK will not be offering Hyundai and Kia-like warranties. The warranty on the MG6 will match the market average: 3 years or 60,000 miles.
- an extension to a 5 year warranty will, though, be offered at ‘competitive rates’
- the UK-spec version of the MG3 should be launched here at the end of 2012 but, to date, no decision has been made about whether that model will also be built at MG Birmingham
- the UK launch of the MG6 Saloon has been brought forward in response to the feedback from the market research which MG Motor UK has undertaken
- that market research indicates that most buyers of the MG6 Saloon are likely to opt for the mid and top-spec versions
- the projected sales figures for the MG6 Fastback and Saloon stands at 2000 units to April, 2012 i.e. to the end of the first 12 month production period
- retail buyers and user-choosers are the target market for the petrol-engined MG6s and, as 50% of sales are expected to be on finance, Residual Values (RVs) are very important
- the projected, first year sales target of 2000 units should therefore enable MG Motor UK and the Dealer Network to control RVs for the first two years – Guy Jones sees that as being especially important in today’s post-recession economic environment
- negotiations with potential European importers are already underway but MG Motor UK rightly reckons that there would be no point in a European relaunch until the diesel-engined versions of the MG6 come on stream at the end of next year
- Guy Jones’ mantra for MG Motor UK remains one of ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ with the current emphasis being on a ‘quality launch’ and building the brand and business for a sustainable future.
Some AROnline readers may have already seen Adam Sloman’s recent article about Tony Williams-Kenny’s promotion to the role of Design Director at SMPV but we took the opportunity to ask him whether he was, in fact, the first British or European-born and trained Car Designer to be appointed to such a senior postion by a Chinese OEM. Williams-Kenny reckoned that, while a few British or European colleagues might be in similar posts at some of the China-based JVs, he was probably the first to land a Director-level role at a significant Chinese OEM – there are, remember, still around 100 OEMs in China!
Interestingly, when asked, Tony Williams-Kenny drew a clear distinction between his new role and that of, for example, Kia Motors Corporation’s (KMC) Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer. Schreyer had been at Volkswagen Group for 26 years before his move to KMC back in 2006 whereas Williams-Kenny has been involved in MG design for 10 years. He was initially MG Rover Group Limited’s Design Manager and then switched to what is now SMTC UK where he was responsible for the creation of two Design Studios, including the new one at MG Birmingham, so he already knows the Design Teams here and in China well. Peter Schreyer, on the other hand, had seemingly to start from scratch when creating a new design language at KMC…
Williams-Kenny will be basing himself in China later this year and commuting back to the UK but we forgot to ask him whether he would follow Peter Schreyer’s example as to dress code. Schreyer only ever wears black and says: ‘It’s a uniform for me. It makes dressing for work or packing for trips so much easier.’ Mind you, he is also on record as saying: ‘A sports car, like an MX-5 – that would be my dream car for Kia. A little roadster – if I keep repeating the idea, it will happen.’ Hopefully, Tony Williams-Kenny will, at least, follow Schreyer’s lead on that when he arrives in China…
AROnline’s take on what we learned at MG Motor UK’s Media Briefing last Tuesday? Well, with Tony Williams-Kenny’s promotion and Guy Jones’ presentation, MG Birmingham certainly seems to be accelerating towards a successful future much faster now…
[Editor’s Note: Readers can view Photographer Simon Davies’ video compilation of the photographs which appear in the Gallery below by following this link.]
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