News : MG’s European Design Centre expanded

Photography: Adam Sloman


SAIC Motor’s European Design Centre at MG Birmingham has more than doubled in size just three years after the original design studio opened. The latest investment from SAIC Motor, MG’s parent company, follows on from more than £500m invested in the development of new models for Europe.

Staff in the newly expanded Design Centre are already working on a range of future MG models, including the new MG3. The latest investment allows the studio to carry out even more advanced design work. The original studio was part of a £5m investment programme.

An advanced five-axis milling machine, which allows models in clay or hard materials to be produced within 36 hours, is a major part of the latest upgrade and spending on sophisticated equipment. It also includes a Visualisation Suite where life-size images of models can be projected onto a giant screen that has 2D and 3D capability.

A second design plate, an extremely accurate steel plate set to fine tolerances, has been installed. This allows highly-skilled Clay Modellers to work on future generations of MG cars. More than 160 designers at two studios – Shanghai and the MG site in Birmingham – come under the leadership of Anthony Williams-Kenny, SAIC’s Head of Global Design who flew in from China for the opening. Canadian-born Martin Uhlarik heads the European Design Centre in Birmingham.

The Designers work closely with the 300 professional Engineers at the adjoining SAIC UK Technical Centre. More than 400 people are employed at the MG Birmingham site where the new MG3 will roll off the assembly line later this year. It will become the second modern MG to come out of the Birmingham factory following the MG6.

Keith Adams


  1. @Sam – I’ve read it and it still doesn’t make it any more British or any less owned by a Chinese (i.e. foreign) company. People always used to bleat on how PSA vehicles built in Coventry were British…..they were not. It was a French owned concern that when the pressure to cut costs and capacity was required it was their British factory that was closed first. Have a reality check for pities sake. The destiny of ALL foreign owned plants in the UK (i.e. all of them) is decided overseas, NOT in the UK.

  2. @ Lord Ward:

    “Did somebody ask about RED SEAT BELTS?”

    Yes, it was me, albeit on another link. Thanks for posting this link to the reasons why, it is very interesting. Clearly Austin Rover Group never faced these issues with the MG Metro or Rover Cars with the more recent Rover 200 BRM LE. Therefore, I am surprised at MG Motor UK Ltd having this potential problem. Unless of course, there are different regulations in place regarding the chemicals used in pigments for seat belt webbing.

  3. @ Carl.
    I didn’t bring manufacturing into it anyway, but here goes:
    So by the same logic Jaguar are no longer British? Or the Rover 75 was all German?
    Very few car makers are “pure” British/German/French or what have you now anyway.
    VW have been making cars for the UK market in Mexico for years, and no-one accuses VW of being “Mexican”.
    Or what about the last Fiat Panda? That was made in Poland, but we still call it Italian.
    But I don’t really car where a car is made as long it starts when I turn the key.

    There’s real UK input to MGs, one that’s growing if this post is anything to go by.

  4. Massive expansion of their “design centre”…… All they need to do now is expand their sales above one a month 🙂

  5. Red seat belts – dunno what it is about UK market interiors but grey/black seems to be the norm – possibly a Germanic influence? When you look at cars built/sold elsewhere, eg Hyundai/Honda in India, they seem much more brighter/colourful.

    Good news on the Technical Centre but I’m still mystified why so few MG UK employees run 6’s – haven’t they got an equivalent to the old (probably subsidised?) company car lease scheme?

  6. Yes they have a high class design team in the UK, but this workforce are being discredited by a manufacturer who are using out of date technology, manufacturing methods compared with Europe and designing products for the Chinese market first and Europe second or third, and by not having a PR department who market the product effectively and so therefore this wholly combined is a poor performance in the eyes of enthusiasts of the MG brand and the buying public. If they want to get it right in the UK and Europe they have to correct these things asap, but this would have been done from the offset if Nac-saic were so concerned about Europe/UK.

  7. The emblem on the bonnet of the red MG3 has been annoying me for the last couple of days.

    Is it a stylised 3?

    Does it say MGG?

    What is it meant to be?

  8. @Sam 5. You kind of make my argument for me really. Yes VW are German owned wherever they are made same as Fiat, Toyota, Nissan etc. I totally agree that JLR wouldn’t be JLR without UK input but my main point I guess is that it is foreign owned and not in charge of its own destiny in the way that BMW, VW, MB, FIAT, Renault, Honda etc are to a much greater degree. When the worst comes to the worst, foreign brands can retreat to their own countries. That is not an option for any volume producer in the UK.

  9. You have to remember, the double of zero is still zero.

    I’d be more interested to hear about actual manufacturing jobs, instead of the “assembly” that they currently purvey as being “built in Britain”.

  10. @Sam… I fail to see your logic… You say the Fiat Panda is Italian, despite it being made in Polakia, and yet you claim that MG is Bri’ish because it’s owned by Chinese?

    That doesn’t make sense at all to me to be hounest…

  11. What are they all doing? I know corporate Britain is fantastic at making the time fly by without achieving anything, but this is rediculous.

  12. It looks great. A real contradiction with their marketing resource. The fact that they are continuing to invest suggests that they are here for the long term, and that, eventually, they will get the marketing right.

  13. @ Sam…..errr still reads the same to me sir, your argument lacks consistency as well as rigour. Ta 🙂

  14. My point is, very few cars are now the effort of one nation. Those days have almost gone. MG is no different to Fiat, Mercedes, Ford, Honda, Peugeot, VW etc, etc.
    So why single MG out?

  15. Great news!

    News which should help put aside doubts about SAIC’s intentions and the future of Longbridge.

  16. @Sam – I’m not singling MG out. They are just a defunct brand badge stuck on substandard products that nobody really wants and its band owner neither cares about it or is inept or both. I just dont think there is anything to be proud of or anything to be pulled from the ashes of the sad demise of the UK’s last volume maker. How does this sad history compare to that of Germany, France and Italy? How many home owned volume Japanese brands are there? It is a sad reflection on The UK as a whole. I am in the aerospace industry, the government likes to bleat how we are second in the world when it comes to aerospace innovation but the sad fact is that most our aerospace industry is owned by the French and the Americans through lack of investment from former British owners. Ditto energy sector; owned by the French and the Germans in the main….I could go on

  17. Interesting, and good to see that SAIC is expanding it’s UK design team. However, with the talent on offer, the products are still a little lacking in something. Reminds me of my days (long ago) working as an Industrial Designer for a Taiwanese consumer electronics company. We had a design department in the UK, and a larger department in Taipei. I was charged with working with the Taipei team to produce new product ranges. This was quite difficult owing to differences in culture, and significantly design education. The Taiwanese guys were very good technically, but lacked an understanding of Western design education, history or culture. Where as I had been educated in the traditions of European, Japanese and American design, art and architecture, the Taiwanese guys hadn’t, their tutors opting for teaching more about software, processes, manufacturing and production. I drew a lot, on paper, they produced CAD models. It was an uneasy mix, but eventually we got there – I managed to meld my creative skills with their technical skills, and we came up with some decent design. The stumbling block was getting the designs approved by the Taiwanese management, who tended to want conservative designs, produced by the home team, that aped something that was already selling well in the marketplace. I had to fight tooth and nail to get my designs developed. We eventually ended up with a compromise, which went into production, was reasonably successful, but bland. Which brings me back to the MG3…….it’s a bit dull looking. If SAIC can look beyond the home market, and trust the UK design team, they can produce some really fresh, distinctive cars. Err on the side of compromise and the sorry tale of BMC/BLMC/ARG/MGR keeps repeating……..

  18. @22, If you work at BAE systems you would know the people at the top are loons only interested in their own pay offs once they have destroyed the company,only good fortune prevented a merger with EADS, setting that aside,why are these cars substandard? how do you qualify that comment? is it because of Clarkson? or because people say so?.

    I tend to find out for myself normally.

  19. Sub standard? A little harsh I feel, in the case of the MG6. And give the MG3 a chance to prove it’s self. It’s not even on sale here yet!
    I’m not comparing their “story” to that of any volume car makers, all I’m saying is that most car makers now have people working for them all over the world.
    Honda have a design studio in California.
    The Nissan Squashed Quiche or whatever it’s called was designed in the UK.
    Volvo and Jaguar have used bits from Ford. In fact, the Volvo C70 was designed by Brit Peter Horbury and partly made by TWR…and everyone called that “typically Swedish” when it first came out.
    Bentleys use VW bits.
    BMW build stuff in South Africa and the USA.
    The list of car companies owned, or with operations outside their own countries is huge.
    Making cars is an international thing now. The days of when cars are designed wholly in their marque’s home country, and only made there, with lumps of steel going in one end of the factory and coming out as a car will soon be gone.

  20. @25 Francis and 26 Sam. By substandard, I mean the whole operation. as for the cars, they have been reviewed and commented on these pages many times….the overall impression could never be described as positive and go getting. As I say substandard cars from a substandard operation. As for BAE Systems, dont get me started ( as an ex emplyoee). If they hadnt sold off their Airbus shareholding in 2006 back to EADS, they would not have needed to come come in hand back to EADS who quite rightly gave them them finger. Talk about big business shooting itself in the fooot for short term gain!

  21. @27,After decades of substandard operations at BL,im quite happy for the chinese to go at their own pace,BA had a golden opertunity to make Rover truly great with investment but opted for short term gain with the BMW deal,and every project they had delays and overruns. The scrapping of the Nimrod MRA4 is worthy of a hanging-MOD included.

    So there has been a well established pattern over the years,for me,im thankful SAIC employ people at longbridge and i hope in continues and grows.

  22. MGUK’s sales and marketing leaves a lot to be desired (if you want a laugh look at their YouTube channel by the way).
    But the MG6 seems to be mostly positively reviewed by owners, who like it’s special Rovery “feel” and the driving experience it offers.
    I don’t think the MG6 is “sub-standard”…

  23. @29, I think most people would be hard pressed finding a substandard car,maybe a Perodua but not much else. Even Dacia-cars i have little time for are a belts and braces serve their purpose car are not one bit substandard.

    Its the Chinese thing i suspect,folk dont believe they are capable of making sound,well built cars.They are made from high grade steel,including high strengh and Boron steel and all of the high tensile fastenings are sourced from the UK and Europe. Thats from Thatcham labs repair methods.

  24. Great news for the british car industry and engeneering. No other european countries face so much investment for their car industry. That’s the facts.

  25. The “Britishness” of the MG6 and MG3 are somewhat undermined by the cars being knock-down kits that have had most of the manufacturing done in China. But the other thing to my mind is that the cars don’t *look* British, you could easily imagine them with a KIA or some other Asian marque on the front.

  26. Ok I’m not a fan of the new MG in their current form as they don’t have any heritage about them.

    But…this is a fantastic bit of news. Those 500 jobs are 10% of MGR at the end from memory.

    Better that MG invest in the UK & try to do something with their marque, rather than keeping it all in China or elsewhere. This news makes me more hopeful for the future of MG since the original implosion. Wait a few years, then judge.

  27. Finding Britishness in any car is going to be a task regardless of its origins. How much of a 7 series is any Rolls Royce nowadays? if i uttered that sentance 30 years ago i would have had my throat cut.Same for Bentley,and the Italians would say the same for Lamborghini.

    Heritage like history is a thing of the past. Its probably only the chinese making cars like they used to,rolls of steel come in one door,car come out the other.

  28. All the comments on BAE systems management are spot on. They don’t seem to understand long term strategy and have all their eggs in defense which is so foolish.
    As for this investment in the design studio,its good news but the cars are not British. Headquarter for the brand and manufacturing makes a British car (JLR)Doesn’t matter who owns it. Manufacturing alone makes made in Britain. Designing a dabbling is neither.

  29. @35 – Slartybartfast.

    Why does design and engineering not count towards being british? As you should talk to Dyson!

  30. @francis brett – true, almost all British cars are very un-British underneath. But that’s true for a lot of cars that share platforms. But consider a German Saloon or a small French hatchback.. there’s something intrinsic in their designs that makes them a little bit distinctive.

    I think MG do have a lack of design language, especially when you consider that all their (recent) saloons were based on Rovers. The MG ZT for example is a fine looking motor, but the Rover-ness of the design lies very deep.

    Still, it looks a lot nicer than a CityRover..

  31. @38,The trouble with the 75 was it was a breath of fresh air for a year or two and everyone fell out of love with retro, arguably almost sinking Jaguar with the very retro S type and not too brilliant X.
    The Z cars was a miracle for Rover the ZT/T really suited the Z treatment,but things move on -there is no lineage in a MK2 and MK3 Cavalier but there is in MK3 Cav to Vectra B,none to Vecra C or Insignia A.

    Though there is a whiff of trad Jag in the XJ nothing else looks quite like it from past Jags notably the dashboard.
    Like it or not MG is reborn and has had to start with a blank canvas,it cant just reheat the past without getting flak-it gets enough now.

  32. @38 Dynamoo

    Look back over the decades and pretty much all MG saloons were derivatives of Austins & Morrises i.e. ADO16, Farina etc. It’s pretty much how it has always been done.

    I have always had a niggle that it might be a disadvantage for the 6 (but hopefully not the 3) that there hasn’t been a ‘grey’ version to sit along side it. The Z’s were sporty versions of ‘grey’ Rovers, so there was a direct comparison. The 6 and 3 don’t have that in Europe, only in China atm.

  33. @37 & 40 – Telford & Bridgnorth at one time – the company I worked for (Taiwan owned, British R&D) made OEM kit for them amongst others………

  34. The main problem for MG is not design language but reputation. Skoda, Seat, Audi and VW have nearly 20% of the UK market due to the reputation of VAG products which have taken 40 years to build. MG are seen as poor quality, low volume risk purchase by most buyers. MG3 will not succeed unless it can overcome the reputation issue either with a 7 year warranty or very low pricing. Anything else will end in failure.

  35. @43, Who would seriously touch a Hyundai twenty years ago unless they stunk of urine? let alone a Kia. The cars are not poor quality like a MK1 Pony was (apt name).
    These 7 years warranties folk wax lyrical about are not any better than a three year warranty,dont forget the buyer demograph of these cars,low miles,not many on fleets,we got some i30’s on our fleet-diesels with low CO2 etc and they have given us warranty problems as bad as Mazda.They cant cope with high mile fleet use.

  36. Good news on the jobs front.

    Now all they need to do is HAVE SOME ORIGINAL IDEAS that don’t make the cars look like a Kia Toaster or Hyundai Fridge.

    @44 Francis you are dead right about the Hyundais. Mostly owned by wrinklies who potter off to the shops driving at 35mph everywhere. Loads of them round here. The warranty is great for these folk, most of whom have no interest in cars other than whether it has a working heater and can they get Classic FM on the radio.

    In a goodly number of cases they will need the 5 year warranty as I have heard some horror stories about both Kia and Hyundai.

  37. @36 Rugby Dave

    The reasoning is quite simple they try to con everyone into thinking the manufacture is British and start waving the the Jack around. Using British Designers and engineers is good news as we have some of the finest but the cars are not manufactured here. Triumph motorcycles design, engineer and manufacture here and abroad which is perfectly reasonable. SIAC fit wheels, bumpers and a Chinese made engine and try to claim these cars are British. Dyson don’t wave the Jack around and they have their headquarters in the UK, they’re not trying to kid anyone. The strap line for this web site is”made in Britain” not designed and engineered in Britain as admirable as that is and as good as all those guys may be….. Contribute of coarse they do, I’m a designer my self but I don’t claim to of manufactured my designs….. Don’t be fooled the Chinese think the British are feckless.

  38. @Paul Taylor: well, the “M” stands for “Morris” so it’s always been that kind of car company. Rovers, Austins, Morrises and goodness what else have had the MG treatment. I guess that was kind of the charm.. you have the same sort of thing with Abarth these days, so it can work.

    Perhaps MG is just the wrong marque to be using for a car like this. But SAIC’s collection of ex-BL marques isn’t exactly stellar: MG, Morris, Wolseley, Austin, Vanden Plas. Logically a little car like this should be an Austin.. a marque that might have appeal in some markets but not in the UK.

  39. The other point is who in the right mind buying a new car in Europe would buy one that hasn’t been put through the euro ncap crash test. Surely this is the most essential part for new cars in the modern era.

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