Press Report : SAIC Motor targets Europe with new MG models

Nick Gibbs, Automotive News Europe, 1 June 2011

MG3 on sale in Shanghai now.
MG3 on sale in Shanghai now.

The Chinese owners of the UK’s MG sports car brand plan to invest heavily and launch new models to grow MG around the world, with Europe being the main target market.

Shanghai-based parent, SAIC Motor Corp, owner of MG Motor UK, has already spent £1billion in resurrecting MG and its sister brand Roewe, formerly Rover, and will now spend another £2.2 billion ($3.6 billion) to boost MG and Roewe sales to 700,000 by 2015.

Last year, the two brands sold 160,397 cars, mainly in China. Only 2,000 were exported abroad.

MG launched sales of the MG6 compact car in the UK, the first new car assembled at its Longbridge, England, plant in 16 years, in April. The model will go on sale in mainland Europe next year when a diesel engine is ready. ‘We will not go into (mainland) Europe without a diesel,’ said UK Managing Director, William Wang.

MG has a range of six new models at various stages of launch or development. These are:

– The MG3 small hatchback, a roomy, sporty-looking car that’s already been successfully launched in China. The MG3 will launch in the UK at the end of 2012. Success in the UK will determine the launch date in mainland Europe for the MG3 and the brand’s other new models

– The MG5, a compact model that will rival cars such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Revealed in concept form at the Shanghai auto show in April, this hatchback will be key to the brand’s mainstream revival in both the UK and mainland Europe when it arrives in 2013.

– An SUV-style crossover will go on sale in 2014 in the UK to rival the Nissan Qashqai.

– Also in 2014, a replacement will launch in the UK for the MG7, which is based on the Rover 75 developed when MG Rover was an independent company and first launched in China back in 2007. The new hatchback version draws on SAIC Motor’s partnership with General Motors Co. in China and will share the Epsilon 2 platform used by the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, according to Chen Zhixin, SAIC Motor’s Executive Vice President.

– A replacement for the TF roadster is due in 2016 in the UK. ‘If you don’t have a sports car, the brand doesn’t look so robust,’ Liu Tao, the carmaker’s Product Planning Director said.

– A small EV, based on the Roewe E1 concept, is also planned for a 2012 launch in China.

SAIC Motor, China’s largest automaker, which sold over 3.58 million vehicles in 2010, will restrict Roewe brand sales to small sedans in China and will export MG-badged hatchbacks, small SUVs and sports cars to markets in Africa and South America, as well as Europe.

The two brands share platforms but are increasingly separate in terms of body styling, with MG focusing on European, and more specifically, British design, according to Tony Williams-Kenny, SAIC Motor’s Global Design Director.

‘British values are key to what we’re doing [with MG]. We’ve got to make sure those values are fashionable, youthful and on trend,” he said

The MG5 was revealed as a concept car at Auto Shanghai in April.
The MG5 was revealed as a concept car at Auto Shanghai in April.

‘It’s time to fall in love again,’ was the advertising slogan accompanying the UK launch of the MG6. But MG may have a hard time convincing MG’s birthplace that the new range of cars is worthy of the badge. About 80 per cent of MG6 production is done in SAIC Motor’s three-year-old Lingang factory near Shanghai.

And of the new models, only the MG6 will be built in Longbridge. ‘How we manage manufacturing [in the UK] depends on investment and that depends on sales,’ Chen said at a press event in Shanghai to announce MG’s model plans.

MG is building the MG6 in Longbridge using bodyshells, engines and powertrains shipped from SAIC Motor in China. The company inherited the plant through its 2007 merger with Nanjing Automobile, which had acquired a lease over the site after MG Rover, Britain’s biggest carmaker, went bust with the loss of 6500 jobs.

MG plans to sell up to 3000 units of the MG6 this year. The five-door car has a 1.8-litre turbocharged gasoline engine and is priced from £15,500.

[Source: Automotive News Europe]

Clive Goldthorp


  1. I notice that, sitting behind the yellow MG3 in the top photograph, are blown up versions of the same heritage press photos – complete with exactly the same footer descriptives – which MG Rover Group’s Press Office issued on its media website in 2003.

  2. The MG3 will appeal to the Swift and Fabia market but it just isn’t funky enough for the trendy market – for example, compare it to a Citroen DS3.

    How about a retro-style “MG 1100”? 🙂

    The MG7 should be an interesting option if it can muscle in to the fleets (that’s not easy – see, for example, the failure of the Chevrolet Epica). No doubt the naysayers will make the same comments which they made about the Jaguar X-TYPE and Saab 9-3 “Ah, but it’s just an Insignia in disguise” etc. etc.

    “MG and its sister brand Roewe, formerly Rover” – I would suggest that this statement is not quite technically true. Roewe was a marketing excercise in investing a British brand because the Rover name was licenced to Ford to avoid confusion in the US market (as in Land/Range Rovers). Is it possible that it’s new owners, Tata Motors, could use the Rover brand to sell sub-Jaguar saloons?

    Will we be getting Roewes in the UK? If so, you can imagine the confusion “well, technically it’s a Rover…” and a great demand for secondhand Viking boat shields. I would prefer a bit of comfort from big British cars (as in Rovers of old), not the hardcore stiffened suspension “sport” that MG are marketing. I must be getting old!

  3. The Suzuki Swift isn’t funky? I can’t tell you the number of young women that I know who either own or want to own a Swift. It drives well and is easily a match for the MINI (and cheaper too).

    Actually, apart from the MINI, Swift and Fiat 500, I cannot think of a really ‘funky’ supermini. I reckon that, if the MG3 can match the Swift, MG will be doing very nicely indeed.

    I think we’ll find that Roewe cars won’t be for export and that MG will be the worldwide brand.

  4. @Richard
    I’m a fan of the Suzuki Swift and know of at least one happy owner. Actually, I would regard it as more of a spiritual successor to the Mini than the MINI…

    However, my point was that the MG3 won’t even be on the radar for a lot of trendy urbanites. Most will opt for the default choice of a MINI. It’s a tough market to crack, as fashion can be fickle.

  5. @Will
    I take your point about the MINI being the default choice for urbanites. Maybe, at this stage, it’s no bad thing for MG to be looking elsewhere for customers and building up a loyal customer base that’s not necessarily swayed by the latest trend.

  6. “And of the new models, only the MG6 will be built in Longbridge.” Was there a statement that the other five models would all be imported fully-built from China? That doesn’t sound right for the sports car or are we saying that plans up to the MG6 launch onto the Continent involve only the MG6 at Longbridge? I wonder – Longbridge has lots of unused capacity.

    I also note Tony Williams-Kenny’s statement that “British values are key to what we’re doing [with MG]. We’ve got to make sure those values are fashionable, youthful and on trend” – so trendy, in fact, that I have never even heard the expression ‘on trend’ before.

  7. @Patpending
    Actually, there seem to be two conflicting accounts of what Chen Zhixin, SAIC Motor’s Executive Vice President, told the motoring media about overseas production at last April’s Auto Shanghai – compare the quote attributed to him above with the statement referred to in the final paragraph of this earlier AROnline article MG Motor UK: MG 3 Customer Clinics begin at Prodrive Kenilworth as originally reported by China Car Times

  8. Nobody will take SAIC Motor seriously until they make a major investment in the facilities at Longbridge.

    I know that Clive and Keith have made numerous trips to Longbridge but they are only shown what MG Motor want them to see. The Paintshop is run down, CAB2 is derelict and yet MG Motor make the claims that the Chinese plant has world-class facilities.

    I would suggest that SAIC Motor should bring Longbridge up to the same level. 6.500 employees lost there jobs at Longbridge and many are still awaiting the take-off at MG.

    There’s no confidence in the MG6 apart from diehard MG fans – especially when you hear current employees saying that outside contractors are reworking parts to fit to these vehicles.

    Indeed, the situation would be even worse if the statement quoted by Patpending above turns out to be true and the other new models do come in from China fully built.

    I can believe that because, as current employees will tell you, all the 25 and 45 tracks and systems have been taken down and removed. Why, then, is there no sign of the investment which would be required if the MG3, MG5 (Concept5) and/or the new sports car are to be assembled or built at Longbridge?

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