A number of interesting MG-related stories were circulating in the international motoring media prior to the Christmas and New Year holiday so AROnline reckoned that the turn of the year was a good time to give Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones, the opportunity to comment on some of those reports as well as to reflect on MG Motor UK Limited’s 2013 and to look forward to 2104. Here, then, are the results of our emailed Q&A session…
The MG3 has now arrived in MG Dealers’ showrooms and the model-specific national advertising campaign has aired – how do you think that the launch has gone so far and what marketing strategy does MG Motor UK have for carrying that momentum into 2014? How, for instance, are any plans to develop a cost-effective racing version of the MG3 progressing?
The launch has been extremely successful with selling every car we built in 2013 and giving us a healthy order bank for 2014. Following on from the major investment in the TV lead launch campaign for MG3 we have strong plans to further increase awareness of the brand and MG3 and MG6 models in 2014. We are continuing to advertise nationally in Q1 both on and offline and, following the response to product displays in retail areas, will be increasing these.
We also have some exciting new plans for brand awareness to be announced shortly. As the customers for MG6 have been predominantly mature male customers we have a huge opportunity to expand the brand to women and younger drivers with MG3. We will be focusing our investment on this but also hope to see MG3 on the track at least in club racing soon.
General Motors has recently announced that the Chevrolet brand will be withdrawn from Western and Eastern Europe by the end of 2015 – given the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by General Motors and SAIC Motor back in December, 2010 and that you are on record as saying that MG Motor UK aims to increase the current total of MG Dealers here to 75 covering 80 per cent of the country’s conurbations by the end of 2014, will you and Head of Sales and Franchise, Sam Burton, now specifically target the UK’s 72 outgoing Chevrolet Dealers and, with MG’s potential European re-launch in mind, the 1900 Chevrolet Dealers there? Interestingly, Paul Williams, Chief Executive Officer of SsangYong Motor UK Limited, has already issued an open invitation to the UK’s Chevrolet Dealers…
We are targeting a priority list of key locations based on sales potential for our current and imminent model range. We are now in a strong position to offer the best low-investment growth opportunity to a wide range of franchisees. We now have a number of very strong businesses joining and applying for the franchise and we would welcome additional applications from Chevrolet dealers to be considered alongside these.
The Romanian autoevolution website has recently published ‘a set of leaked patent images’ purporting to show the production version of the MG CS SUV Concept which was first revealed at Auto Shanghai last April while English language, Chinese Automotive Industry website ChinaCarNews claims that ‘the latest reports in the Chinese media confirm the [MG CS SUV’s] SsangYong origins, saying that the [car] is based on the “SsangYong Korando multi-platform”’ and adds ‘they also say the wheelbase of the CS is 2650mm, which is exactly the same as the wheelbase of the Korando.’ What can you tell AROnline’s readers about the platform which underpins the production version of the CS SUV, the powertrains which will be available when the model reaches the showrooms and the likely timing of that launch in China and the UK?
The CS SUV was shown as a concept vehicle. The details and timing of the production vehicle for Europe have not yet been announced so this is all speculation until the production car details are released. We have just launched MG3 with a wide range of vehicle personalization closely behind adding a diesel model to the MG6 range so 2014 will be focused on selling these models in the UK.
A report run by ChinaCarNews in November suggested that an MG5-based MG4 Coupe ‘will debut as early as next year’ while Autocar then ran a story saying that ‘MG [has] confirmed that the MG4, should it make production, would not be offered in the UK.’ The
aforementioned articles do not indicate whether the MG4 Coupe would be a Renault Megane Coupe or a Vauxhall Astra GTC-like 3-Door coupe or a MY14 Mazda3 Fastback-like 4-Door coupe but, certainly in the former case, then surely such a model has the potential to become something of a halo product for the rest of the MG range – think either, say, Renaultsport Megane 265 or Vauxhall Astra GTC VXR…What can you tell AROnline’s readers about the MG4 and can you provide some details of the reasoning behind MG Motor UK’s reported decision not to bring the model to the UK?
We have no official statement so cannot speculate on MG4 in the UK.
Thailand’s Bangkok Post recently reported that SAIC Motor-CP Company Limited – the Joint Venture between SAIC Motor and the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group which is currently completing a 50,000 vehicle a year manufacturing facility in Rayong where production will begin next February – ‘is conducting a feasibility study about investing in a second plant [in Thailand] as it intends to make [the country] its manufacturing base for right-hand-drive vehicles to serve both the local and export markets.’
The Bangkok Post adds that ‘the second plant would enable SAIC Motor-CP’s production to rise to 150,000-200,000 vehicles a year’ and that ‘SAIC Motor aims to export from Thailand to right-hand-driving countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.’ How would such an additional manufacturing facility impact on the prospects for a return to full-scale production at MG Birmingham? Will and, if so, when might UK market MGs such as the 3 and 6 be built in Thailand and what role will MG Birmingham then play in the marque’s much-awaited return to the European market?
As you know, I have repeatedly stated that our role is to expand UK production and sales from hundreds into thousands of units this year with the addition of MG3 to the model range. MG is now a global business and it is exciting to see that it will shortly enter the important South East Asian market via Thailand. Increasing demand for RHD products will increase demand for RHD products in our business which can only help the UK.
The only clear fact is that SAIC Motor is currently investing heavily in both the UK and Thailand businesses. In terms of Europe, MG UK and SMTC UK are playing the key role in designing, engineering and planning the launch of MG products for Europe.
Finally, how would you summarise MG Motor UK’s year and what are you and your colleagues at MG Birmingham most looking forward to in 2014?
2013 was a great year as the long-awaited return to volume sales for MG began. We launched two significant new products for our business with the diesel powertrain in MG6 and then MG3 and are well placed to expand significantly in 2014.
We will significantly increase awareness and Dealer Network coverage of the UK in 2014, so we are looking forward to the sales results from this. Additionally, Marc Hynes, the former British Formula 3 Champion, will be racing a third MG6 GT in the British Touring Car Championship and we are also looking forward to MG90 at Silverstone next June – both represent great opportunities for the brand.
Guy Jones clearly believes that MG Motor UK made some significant progress in re-establishing and re-positioning the MG marque – SAIC Motor’s adopted ’English Infant’ – during 2013 but the company now needs to build on the initial success of the MG3 in 2014. Hopefully, then further new models like the production version of the CS SUV Concept will follow and continue that momentum…
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