MG Motor UK : Sales and Marketing Director Guy Jones talks to AROnline

Clive Goldthorp

Guy Jones
Guy Jones, Sales and Marketing Director, MG Motor UK Limited

AROnline visited MG Birmingham recently and our News Editor, Clive Goldthorp, met MG Motor UK Limited’s Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones, and new PR and Events Manager, Doug Wallace, for a comprehensive Q&A session about the MG marque’s future. Here, then, are our questions and Guy Jones’ answers:

Fiat Group Automobiles disclosed Future Product Plans for 2010 – 2014 relating to all of the Group’s brands in considerable detail at the recent Fiat Investor Day with online access to all the key Presentations – are SAIC Motor/MG Motor UK likely to be able to match that level of disclosure in the foreseeable future?

No – Fiat Group Automobiles (FGA) are unique in that respect. Most OEMs don’t disclose as much information as (FGA CEO) Sergio Marchionne felt obliged to do. However, there will be much better and more communication about SAIC Motor and MG Motor UK moving forward. We’re aiming to provide a market-competitive PR service to English language media with more freedom of information.

The current production run of 155 MG TFs is reportedly the last one and the focus will then switch to production of the MG6. However, given that the TF now seems to be selling quite strongly with 129 registrations from January, 2010 to April, 2010, are there any circumstances in which MG Motor UK might reconsider the decision to cease production of the TF?

We’ve just finished the latest production run of 155 MG TF 135s but have made no decision yet as to whether that will be the final run and so batch-building may continue. MG Motor UK will monitor demand but there is no requirement to end production of the TF 135 because of the introduction of the MG6 as the two models are built on separate assembly lines – if sustainable demand for the TF 135 exists, there is no reason why another batch should not be built.

Andy Kitson, MG’s Head of Chassis, told Autocar’s Matt Prior that the MG6’s ride and handling were being benchmarked against the current MY10 Ford Focus’ ride and handling. However, at least in terms of size, the MG6 should probably be regarded as more of a D-segment than a C-segment contender (See: MG6: MG Motor UK starts pre-launch media initiative). How, then, does MG Motor UK intend to position the MG6 in relation to other C-segment and/or D-segment competitors?

The MG6 will be pitched as a C/D-segment model and combine a space/interior package close to the D-segment standard with ride and handling benchmarked against the best that the C-segment offers – a ‘best of both worlds’ package. The MG6 should have a broad appeal and already seems to be perceived as quite a prestigious model.

We’ve not made any decision yet as to the precise Pricing Structure for the MG6 but, that said, we’re determined to maintain MG’s longstanding image as an affordable and desirable brand.

You told’s Steve Childs you were unable to confirm whether the UK would see an MG version of the new Roewe 350. However, if an MG model based on the Roewe 350’s platform was to be sold here, would that not have to be pitched against other C-segment cars such as the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf? Would an MG based on the Roewe 350 be marketed as the MG4 or MG5?

We’re focused on the launch of the MG6 and evaluating the response to the B-segment (c.4ms long) MG Zero Concept at the moment. MG Motor UK is therefore currently assessing how the company enters the B and C-segments but our aim is to launch in both those segments next.

We’ve not, as yet, made any decisions about what the B and C-segment models will be called but the MG6 will be marketed as that and any future models will have numbers rather than names.


Zero concept is the basis for upcoming MG supermini

The MG Zero Concept shown at last month’s Auto China 2010 in Beijing clearly paves the way for a B-segment MG supermini. Are there any plans to launch a production version in the UK and Europe and, if so, when? Would an MG based on the MG Zero Concept be marketed as the MG2 or MG3?

Yes, as just mentioned, we’re in the process of assessing the response to the MG Zero Concept – that has been exceptionally strong which bodes well for the prospects of a UK and European launch. There has to be a business case to justify UK-build but that’s currently looking good too.

Any production version of the MG Zero Concept will be badged with a number rather than a name but no final decision as to which number will be used has been made.

AROnline believes that the replacement for the MG7/Roewe 750 may well utilise the long wheelbase variant of General Motors’ Epsilon II platform which underpins the new MY10 Saab 9-5 and so be more of an E-segment competitor than the previous MG ZT/Rover 75-based models were (See: MG UK: Longbridge in limbo?). What can you tell us about the MG7 replacement and when might that be launched here in the UK and in Europe?

I am not, at this stage, able to comment about which platform might be used for any MG7/Roewe 750 replacement.

However, whilst there’s clearly a market in China for an E-segment MG model, there’s a question mark over the size of the European market for E-segment models outside of those from established European premium manufacturers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of an E-segment MG model being launched in the UK and Europe but we would need to establish the business case and that’s not a priority – we’re concentrating on the B,C and D-segments first as that’s in line with current market trends.

You told’s Steve Childs that new ‘MG sports cars are part of the Product Plan” but declined to comment further. However, MG enthusiasts everywhere will be hoping that you can answer one additional question: can you confirm that any new MG sports cars will have RWD as opposed to FWD?

No, any discussion about new MG sports cars is premature at this stage as we’re about to launch the MG6 and there are other core products in the pipeline before any new sports cars can be announced.

MG Motor UK has made a conscious decision not to do anything to encourage speculation about a new sports car in order to keep the focus on the MG6 during this important pre-launch period.

What timescale does MG’s current Future Product Plan cover i.e. by when can MG Dealers here in the UK expect to have a full range of B, C, D, E-segment models and sports cars on sale in their showrooms?

The current Future Product Plan, which covers existing models and their next generation replacements, is for a rolling ten-year period.

MG6 is the cornerstone of the company's European expansion plans
MG6 is the cornerstone of the company’s European expansion plans

The next five years will be a very exciting time for SAIC Motors, MG Motor UK and the MG marque. The first all-new platform went on sale in China as the Roewe 550 and is about to go on sale in Europe as the MG6. The second all-new platform, the Roewe 350, went on sale in China last month and the third all-new platform has just been previewed with the MG Zero Concept.

The amount of new product in the pipeline should give MG enthusiasts confidence in the future of the brand and there will be a full range in the foreseeable future.

MG Motor UK maintains close links with both the MGCC and MGOC and there has been some speculation that a suitably modified version of the MG6 might compete in Club-level Motor Racing here in the UK next season. However, does SAIC Motor have any plans to take MG back into top-level Motor Racing such as the BTCC or WTCC?

Motor Sport has been part of the MG brand throughout its history. MGs are out there competing around the world every weekend. Racing MGs form some of the largest grids of any brands participating in Motor Racing on a regular basis.

MG Motor UK wants to capitalise on that Motor Sport heritage in an appropriate way and certainly wishes to link into the Club-level activity that’s already well-established. However, with regard to manufacturer-backed projects in high-profile Championships, we have received a number of proposals for MG involving the BTCC – these are under evaluation at the moment but the final decision will depend upon the resources required and the business case.

MG Motor UK (and the other two Claimants) won the High Court Proceedings relating to the ownership of the IPRs to the MG X POWER brand. Fiat has Abarth, Ford has RS, Renault has Renaultsport (and Gordini) and Vauxhall has VXR as their respective high-performance sub-brands – what, then, are the prospects of the MG X POWER badge re-appearing on high-performance versions of forthcoming MG models?

MG X POWER’s a great brand and has been very visible in the recent past – that’s why we fought so hard to rebut the challenge to our ownership of the IPRs. MG X POWER clearly has great brand equity and so has the potential to be MG’s answer to other OEM’s high-performance sub-brands such as Abarth or Renaultsport.

You have talked previously about ‘unleashing” the potential of the MG brand and indicated ‘that, if anything, SUVs are more likely as MG products than MPVs” but, at the same time, have not ruled out the possibility of reviving the Austin brand. What, if any, future can you foresee for the other legacy brands in SAIC Motor’s brand portfolio such as, say, Morris (given the redefinition of MG as Morris Garages in China) or Sterling (See: SAIC Motor: off to a Sterling start?)?

A massive investment will be required in order to re-establish MG globally and a revival of MG X POWER would also require a substantial investment. I would ‘never say never’ but the other legacy brands would only be considered for revival if there was a valid business case for that.

How many workers (British and Chinese) are currently employed at MG Birmingham by MG Motor UK Limited and SAIC Motor Technical Centre UK Limited?

There are currently around 300 employees at MG Birmingham working in automotive styling, design, engineering, manufacturing, distribution and sales. The opening of the new MG Global Design Studio at MG Birmingham next month signifies another step in the evolving integration of the two businesses.

The majority of the 300 employees are British but we have a regular throughput of SAIC Motor employees across all the functions mentioned above.

Does that number now include MG’s Design Director, Tony Williams-Kenny, and his colleagues on the MG Global Design Team and, if not, when will they be moving to the site?

Yes, Tony and his colleagues have actually been on site here at MG Birmingham since February and will be moving into the new MG Global Design Studio in advance of the opening in June.

AROnline understands that, in theory, MG Birmingham has a maximum capacity of 150,000 units per annum and that the Lease between St Modwen Properties PLC and Nanjing Automobile Corporation (UK) Limited was for a term of 33 years from the 22nd February, 2006 at a rent rising from £1.8m per annum. However, most Economists reckon that the ‘Minimum Efficient Scale” (MES) for a car assembly plant is around 200,000 to 250,000 units a year. How, in that context, can MG Birmingham have a sustainable and viable long-term future?

Yes, you’re correct about the terms of the Lease with St Modwen Properties PLC. However, your MES figure of 200,000 to 250,000 units per annum only applies nowadays when cars are being built from scratch.

The correct MES figure for a particular car assembly plant really depends upon labour costs and other value-added factors so the MES figure mentioned in the question is no longer an accurate benchmark in the context of today’s Automotive Industry.

I do not wish to disclose the MES figure for MG Birmingham because that’s subject to commercial confidentiality but, whilst fixed costs have to be overcome, the breakeven point’s certainly nothing like 200,000 to 250,000 units per annum!

[Editor’s Note: MG Motor UK has invited a small number of Journalists (including our News Editor) to the opening of the new MG Global Design Studio at MG Birmingham next month. The Journalists will also be able to see inside SAIC Motor’s new European Technical Centre (SMTC) for the first time and to meet MG’s key Designers and Engineers. We understand that photography will be allowed in most areas throughout the event and believe that this really does serve to underline Guy Jones’ commitment to providing a market-competitive PR service to English language media…]

Clive Goldthorp


  1. Guy Jones certainly sounds like he knows his stuff – imagine the difference having him at MGR back in 2000-2005 would have made! Everything sounds very positive to me and finally the strong chances for UK production seem cast in stone.

    All that’s left is marketing and pricing and they don’t sound like a company determined to screw that up which was sadly not true of their predecessors. Good luck to them – I am hopeful that my next purchase may well be one of these new MGs!

  2. This is a much more outgoing attitude from MG Motors! I look forward to the new MG6 finally becoming available by the time I will be replacing my car… maybe.

  3. Guy Jones sounds like a businesman with his head screwed on – he didn’t really let much out, as we might expect. He does sound very committed to making MGs at Birmingham, which is a very good thing and something we couldn’t have expected a few years back.

    However, I do wonder about the wisdom of calling the whole range MG – the basic (1.8?) model will surely not merit the badge. I do, though, take the point about re-launching the brand globally being a massive and costly undertaking and there can’t be a business case for doing that with two brands at the same time.

    Good luck, then. I’ll wander into the showroom and have a good look, that’s for sure!

  4. @Jonathan Carling
    Yes, I take the point about the massive investment required to re-establish MG globally too.

    However, I am not really sure how many MG enthusiasts will feel comfortable with Guy Jones’ remark “that, if anything, SUVs are more likely as MG products than MPVs.” Alfisti are, after all, still coming to terms with the fact that C-segment and D-segment Alfa Romeo SUVs feature in FGA’s Future Product Plan for 2010 – 2014!

    Guy, himself, said that “there’s a question mark over the size of the European market for E-segment models outside of those from established European premium manufacturers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz,” when asked about a potential E-segment MG7 replacement.

    I wonder, then, how the business case for simply switching the Roewe badges for Sterling badges on European-market versions of the Roewe 750 replacement and any upcoming Roewe SUVs would stack up against the cost of designing and engineering additional MG derivatives of those models…

  5. @Clive Goldthorp
    Yes, an MG SUV doesn’t sound at all in line with the MG brand. I’m not sure Sterling would be the answer either – it was never a big name here and hasn’t been sold in Europe at all since the late ’90s. A large-scale investment would be needed to promote and re-launch the Sterling brand.

    I guess that, if SAIC Motor are going with MG for all their products, they may as well push the brand for all it’s worth in the quest for high sales. We may have to accept that MG won’t mean ‘cheap sporty cars’ anymore. The rise of MINI, with a very different (and still changing) image from 10 years ago, shows that a good product with a traditional British brand name can be desirable, given enough investment.

  6. @Clive Goldthorp
    It’s a strong argument Clive and it’s not for me to say it’s the wrong thing to do. It would cost a lot though.

    By the way, this forum format is great for debating!

  7. Why can’t MG launch an SUV? Lest we forget that BMW, another marque built around a ‘sporting’ image, now has three SUVs on the market in the form of the X1, X3 and X5 models.

    It’s all very well saying that it’s not “right” for MG to launch an SUV but, if it’s a good car and a sales success, then why not? What MG need to do is get themselves to the point where Rover Group was after the launch of the R8 200/400 i.e to have a strong model range that covers all the bases and one that commands slightly more prestige than your average Ford or Vauxhall.

    As an aside, I agree with Jonathan Carling that there is little hope for a revival of the Sterling marque. It evokes nothing in the hearts and minds of the average European motorist – not in the same way an Austin or an MG-badged car would.

  8. I hope that they can supply parts for these new cars better than for the MG TF. I have been trying to find a rear panel for a TF (which is the same part from start of MG F production to current SAIC TF) with no joy.

    Keith Harris, MG UK’s Customer Relations Manager, says that the rear panel comes to them as part of a larger welded assembly (body shell) and told me to contact X POWER. I’ve tried that but without any response other than unavailable.

    How can a panel used in the building of a current car be unavailable? I can get any part produced out of China in a few months.

    I have a customer’s car about to be witten off by the Insurers due to the lack of this part (AQA460020).

    It’s not easy to get answers from here (Australia)…

    Stuart Ratcliff

  9. @Jonathan Carling
    Yes, I guess that the “Sterling option” would only be a viable proposition if SAIC Motor/MG Motor UK decided against extending the MG marque to either an E-segment model and/or an SUV(s) but still wished to compete in those segments outside China.

  10. @John
    Point taken – please accept my apologies for not putting the specific question about whether the MG6 will be launched in Ireland at the same time as in the UK to Guy Jones.

    I will, in the circumstances, do my best to clarify that for you…

  11. @Clive Goldthorp
    I think that sticking to medium-sized sports cars would be a good plan.

    There is currently plenty of choice for MPVs and SUVs but, as for the mid-sized car market, there are not currently many well-priced cars other than the Ford Focus, the Mazda 3 and, perhaps, the Subaru Imprezza which have the kind of characteristics that really make you want to get in and drive – I’m thinking in terms of a modern interpretation of the original Triumph Vitesse or Triumph Dolomite Sprint… I’d probably add Alfa Romeo to that list as well but most other mid-sized cars are really rather boring!

    Oh, and I would repeat my previous comments that an MG of today should be AWD. Alex

  12. I would have thought that, given the resources available in China, it would not have been hard to sharpen up the lines of the MG TF’s bodywork (only a little) to make them a bit more modern. Alex

  13. @Clive Goldthorp
    Sterling was a failure and a name relatively unknown in Europe. Who would want to back a failure again? MG is the brand and MG will be invested in for worldwide sucess. Everytime a manufacturer introduces a new brand the costs of launching and promoting are huge. Simply, there is no business case to dilute the focus on promoting MG.

  14. I think MG are going to find it hard to relaunch the brand in Europe unless they are priced competitively. However, if the MG6 is priced against the Focus but has Mondeo-sized room then it might do well.

    The MG Zero looks good – it’s got more character than the 6 but is likely to be toned down when put into production while the Roewe 350 looks even more bland than the 6.

    I reckon that, if SAIC Motor want to see MG as a more upmarket, prestigious brand, they will need some more sporty and radical designs like the Zero to get noticed.

  15. Do SAIC own the Riley or Wolseley brands? If so, they would probably be a better bet than Sterling which is pretty non-existent in Europe and has a rather dodgy reputation in the USA. Even BMW were thinking about bringing the Riley brand back…

  16. @Alex Mathias
    I do not, in fact, necessarily disagree with your analysis – please see my Comment at #12 above in response to Jonathan Carling’s earlier remarks.

    However, I should point out that Sterling was never used as a standalone brand in Europe (just as high-end trim designation) and that might be an advantage over, say, Austin or Morris…

  17. @DaveH
    You’ve, in part, answered your own question! The BMW Group owns the IPRs to the Riley marque but SAIC Motors (through Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation) owns those to the Wolseley brand.

  18. Hmm… sounds as though, going by the C/D market segment they’re pitching the MG6 at, the Skoda Octavia will be the most direct competition? Especially in vRS form, to rival the MG’s sportier image.

  19. I don’t wish to sound negative here but, if you actually analyse what was said, it was very little. It was politician-speak.

  20. MG Motor UK are planning to pitch the MG6 as a C/D segment model – was it not this kind of thinking that cost the Rover 400/45 so many lost sales? Hardly any bigger (inside) than an Escort but costing as much as a Mondeo… Is this history repeating itself?

    I like the Zero – the front end looks quite aggressive but the side view could do with bigger wheelarches as it looks a bit too slabby (the waistline seems quite high).

    Sterling was the name used in Europe for the top of the range 800 well after the US brand went down. “Sterling 750” doesn’t sound out of place for a big MG or Roewe. I’d like to dream of a decent alternative to BMW or Mercedes-Benz but, if it’s to be another Insignia in drag like the Saab 9-5, then why bother? RWD or AWD will only do for drivers’ cars. Good to see that MG is really coming back to the UK though.

  21. @Dave C
    Oh yes, but there’s not a hope in hell that the car that comes through will look anywhere near as good as the Zero – it, too, will be bland bland bland!

  22. The brand that SAIC need in the U.K and Europe is Rover but Tata Motors are not going to sell it to them. I should imagine that, through JLR, Tata will eventually launch a Rover-badged replacement for the old executive 2000/3500 series with a raft of Tata-badged city cars below it.

  23. I really do believe that brands such as Austin or Morris should be brought back for the European market as they have such a history. Roewe? I do not think that would sell and would not buy a car with such a “brand name.”

  24. Brian : The brand that SAIC need in the U.K and Europe is Rover but Tata Motors are not going to sell it to them. I should imagine that, through JLR, Tata will eventually launch a Rover-badged replacement for the old executive 2000/3500 series with a raft of Tata-badged city cars below it.

    Tata Motors could always lease the Rover name to MG in the same way that BMW did and put in a protection clause to protect Land Rover. I think that Rover should be used in the same way that Austin or Morris could be used. After all, according to Auto Express , the Chinese were willing to pay £50 million for the Rover brand.

    The MG6 could also be badged as a… Morris Marina! Why not? The Rover 25 had an MG variant. Surely sticking a differant name and badge on a vehicle would not cost millions, would it?

  25. @Didier Ziane
    Sterling??? I don’t like the sound of that – it’s almost as bad as Roewe. What about Standard? That sounds seriously POSH! “Slip into my Standard 750.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that BMW cannot use the Riley and Triumph brands for legal reasons.

  26. This C/D segment stuff worries me. The history of BMC/British Leyland etal is littered with segment spanning disasters – the Marina, Maxi, Princess, Maestro and 1995 Rover 400 all fell between the Escort/Focus and Cortina/Sierra/Mondeo benchmarks.

    However, if MG can get the pricing right, the MG6 may be the exception. There is a gulf in size between today’s C and D-segment cars. The current Focus, for instance, fits the standard C-segment norm, but the Mondeo is massive – bigger even than the last Granada. This leaves a gap in the market that only the Skoda Octavia currently populates.

  27. @Paul
    You’re right – if they can price the MG6 at Focus money or just below, like the Octavia, they could get a lot of sales. Compare it with the Octavia – it’s not any worse in the blandness stakes and Skoda shift loads of them…

  28. An interesting, but somewhat cautious interview, wherein MG Motor was not claiming to have re-invented the wheel, thank goodness.

    However, apart from websites and certain weekly motoring magazines, MG Motor is not active in reaching the wider press and establishing links with them through regular press releases. This was something MG Rover Group was excellent at.

    A check on the media website used by accredited Journalists reveals that there has never been a formal press release about the MG6 or it’s intended UK production – clearly MG Motor are not utilising other, more obvious opportunities to try and re-establish buyer confidence in what is still a flawed and commercially damaged marque.

    This, together with not being too reliant on the advice of the two MG Clubs (which are ultimately not academically qualified in the ways of brand management or an understanding of the wider motor industry) or their rose-tinted desire to return to the glory days, will hopefully give MG Motor some sort of reasonable basis from which to instill confidence in the brand beyond just core enthusiasts.

  29. @Andrew M
    The MG Zero Concept may be hideous from your perspective but that’s better than bland. MG products will need to be different and daring to establish a niche.

  30. @Clive Goldthorp
    Doubt it, Clive – it was not used in Europe whereas Austin and Morris were and would be more widely welcomed. The Montego was a very popular car in France and I still see some around and about on the roads together with Metros, Rover 25s (incl. mine!), Rover 45s Rover 75s and the last 600 Series…

  31. @Alex Scott
    Well, Alex, I have to disagree with you there – why just stick with MG?

    I still think that, as pointed out above, bringing back another brand such as Austin or Morris would make sense given that there is a made up name for Rover – Roewe? Er, would this catch on? I doubt it. Far better to re-badge the Roewe range to, say, Morris and use this to off load the old Rover range in Europe – better to have two brands than one.

    It worked for MG Rover – I own a Rover 25 and was looking at the MG version but, as soon as I saw the price, I changed my mind – not all of us have the extra cash to buy a car with an MG badge!

  32. The big picture is that SAIC Motor have decided they want a global brand. MG is the only one they have which means something in all continents – particularly the USA, which I suspect is their ultimate target.

    Tata Motors are never going to sell Rover – it’s simply too risky – and the other BMC legacy brands mean little outside the UK.

  33. @Jon T Pierce
    Sorry Jon, your comment may be valid for the UK and for people of at least my age (45) who are fairly into “old motoring history” – the last Standards were built the year I was born… Sterling encapsulates all that Britishness has to offer: your GBP is called ” LIVRE STERLING ” in France.

    I remember buying my last 220 GTI in ’94 – in the showroom she looked great next to the 800 Sterling Coupe. Wasn’t France the first export market for Rover? I’d like to know what other Europeans think.

    I’ve possessed numerous Rovers in France from 213 SE Auto to 220 GTI , via 214 GSI and 216 GTI. Here in the UK, the Rover name has been dented, thanks to the dubious K-Series engine (2x 216 Cabrios of mine suffered HGF) and the Phoenix 4’s financial “scandals”…

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