News : MG Motor UK goes for Burton

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Clive Goldthorp

30d0b6aMG Motor UK Limited’s new Head of Sales and Franchise, Sam Burton (pictured left), started in post today. The company has not, as yet, issued a formal Press Release about the appointment but Mr. Burton, who was Subaru UK Limited’s Sales Director between October, 2008 and May, 2012, has already updated his LinkedIn profile with details of his new job.

Mr. Burton summarises his role at MG Motor UK as being ‘ responsible for planning, controlling and developing the sales activities and profitability of the MG Motor UK franchise; managing the relationship between MG Motor and its dealer network and working closely with MG dealers to help them maximise sales and develop MG brand awareness and loyalty; managing and developing the MG Motor UK retail site at Longbridge as a flagship dealer and centre of excellence for the MG marque.’

MG Motor UK currently has a total of 31 Franchised Dealers and, with the new B-segment MG3 still scheduled for launch here in the UK during Q3, Mr. Burton’s primary focus in the coming weeks must surely be on dealer recruitment in addition to turning MG KX Momentum Racing’s success on track during the first BTCC Meeting of the season at Brands Hatch last weekend into a much-needed increase in sales of the MG6 range…

[Editor’s Note: Our thanks to AROnline Facebook Group member Scott Glover for drawing our attention to the above via his post on our Facebook page.]

Clive Goldthorp

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

75 Comments

  1. Perhaps we’ll now see some sales… Hopefully, this will be a new start for MG in the UK, properly this time…

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t share people’s optimism on here. Just 31 dealers across the UK. Do they seriously think that garages across the land will be throwing themselves at MG to take on a franchise after the debacle with the MG6?

    Maybe the British weren’t so incompetent at managing MG/Rover after all. At least they sold over 100,000 cars in their final year of production – something only the Chinese could ever dream of producing. The consumer and the market for MG has effectively gone as the loyal customer base has moved on since 2005.

  3. In 2012 Subaru sold 2023 cars down 600 cars or 23% from 2011, probably not the best person to try and boost sales, perhaps they could try and get protons top man, he managed a whooping 208 sales in 2012.

  4. It seems their PR budget is zero, so no matter who they have and like Paul Stiger says, with 31 dealers (and shrinking), how are they going to manage to shift the metal? I give him a few months, and he will probably quit in frustration.

  5. @ Paul (4)

    Many have a feeling you could be right, but as George Turnbull quoted in the famous Marina film, “let’s keep an open mind about all this shall we.”

    Any improvement is better than none – but what worries me is the culture at Longbridge, it will take some serious hard effort to turn not only sales around, but more importantly…. brand and customer perception.

  6. @ Yorkie (6)

    I think you’re right, unfortunately. Assuming this man is competent enough (and I’ve no reason not to), without the resources he needs to do the job, MG have set him up to fail.

  7. Sounds like positive news. At least they have done something, which is a whole lot better than doing nothing. Recognising there is a problem was necessary.

  8. @5, Mark,

    I don’t think Subaru’s sales are down because of the actions of this man. Subaru no longer markets its most successful model, the Impreza, and most of the other products in the range are fairly expensive niche models, with a very limited range of engines. And nowadays every manufacterer makes 4wd cars.

    Subaru have never been a major player in the volume car market, and pulling out of the World Rally Championship may have been a mistake, because they no longer have anything to appeal to the ‘bodykit and baseball hat on backwards’ crew. Further, their dealerships tend to be small, and scattered. They don’t tend to produce the kind of cars that the business fleets want (although the fairly recent arrival of the boxer diesel engine may help matters).

    Anyway, I wish this fella all the best (he’s going to need it) and hopefully he can do something that MG Motors urgently needs to turn things around. Hope he reads AROnline.

  9. Anyone else notice a strong resemblance between Sam Burton and Allistair Campbell, New Labour’s spin-doctor in chief?

  10. @ 11

    My point exactly, Subaru have tiny dealers and not many of them (like MG) they have limited models that no one wants (like MG) Niche market (like MG, no sane person would buy one) never a volume player (just like MG in the UK), riding on the success of motorsport (again like MG) so he should be right at home, but can’t see it making a blind bit of difference, what they need is 5 – 10 years in the UK, more dealers, and sorted cars people want, but they will probably just end if pulling out the UK as no one is prepared to open a dealership to sell 2 cars a month. Only time will tell, but lets face it, they are only hear to make it look like they didn’t just want the MG name.

  11. Did anyone else occupy this position within MG before Sam Burton’s appointment? The job should have existed a couple of years ago before any cars were released. This smacks of stable-door-after-the-horse syndrome.

  12. @ Mike (8)

    I agree with you Mike. And MG UK has got an almost impossible task in terms of recruiting more dealers, marketing the cars, ramping up production, and winning over customers. Maybe if the Chinese owners had snapped up MG Rover quicker and been able to re-start UK production back in the summer of 2005 then they wouldn’t be starting from an almost zero base.

    Despite what I’ve said about the quality of British management previously, the British could have helped the Chinese in terms of design, engineering, quality, production, marketing, and understanding European tastes which could have transferred so well to the Chinese and Asian markets. Instead they focused on a lift and shift of plant & machinery to China and said goodbye to a dedicated workforce, skilled engineers, extensive UK dealer network and loyal customer base. The Chinese shot themselves in both feet as far as the UK and European market is concerned.

  13. Perhaps they should have gone for the head of Saab sales UK. Their sales have collapsed and they only sold a couple of hundred cars in the UK last year. Probably a few more than MG though!

  14. Bad career move, I like the text book pr bullsh1t he has been quoted as saying though, very professional

  15. Wasn’t some bloke called Guy the sales and marketing man at MG? The one who used to smarm his way through every press unveiling with the equally odd designer?

    I didn;t realise they had dropped to 31 dealers, they were claiming 40 for long enough. Even just 31 dealers cannot have sold enough cars to make a profit that pays for even one technician.

    Still, onwards and upwards, but surely if the MG3 is launching in less than 3 months, shouldn’t it be plastered all over the press right now? to stir interest and orders ahead of “launch” Dacia spent almost 12 months building up to the Sandero and Duster launch and apparently had thousands of pre-orders. Even the Vauxhall Adam was supposed to have had 4000 pre-orders before it was even on sale!

  16. May I be the first to congratulate Sam Burton on his appointment, I can’t see how he cannot improve things, but if NOWT happens this time, god help us and Sam’s future career prospects!

    Onwards and upwards MG, 2013 *might* be the year.

  17. @18 – James,

    I think you are probably referring to MG Motor UK Limited’s Sales and Marketing Director, Guy Jones – AROnline understands that he remains in post and assumes that Sam Burton will be reporting to him.

    Incidentally, AROnline believes that the role of Head of Sales and Franchise is a new one.

  18. I hope he makes a success of it.
    Mark, please use “try to” instead of “try and” and “here” instead of “hear”!
    Interesting to note that Guy Jones is MG Motor UK’s “Limited Sales and Marketing Director” Perhaps they should appoint an “Unlimited Sales Director”
    LOL

  19. @22 Sorry I must have living on a different planet. I did not realise that Saab had gone bankrupt! Shame. That new 9-5 looked stunning I thought. Sort of like a quirky Citroenised Rover 75.
    Wasn’t Saab reliability rather questionable?

  20. I can’t believe the dealer network is now 31???!!! I thought they were always hovering around the 50-something mark? How on earth are they going to launch a new car this Summer with 31 dealers? Pathetic.

  21. I wish Mr Burton all the best in his new role. He clearly brings a wealth of experience with him and obviously weighed up the pros and cons of such a task before applying for the job.

    As he worked with Subaru, a brand that did not face the same shake-up and torture as other GM brands did back in 2008, he clearly must have done something right. Without trying to sound factious, I do wonder whether Mr Jones should be reporting to Mr Burton, rather than the other way round?

  22. Paul @25, Saab had excellent reliability for products like the 99,900 and 9000 and also the cars had similar durability and safety to Volvos. Then GM bought them in 1993 and they started putting Vectra engines in the cars and the quality and reliability went totally downhill. Buying a 9-3 or 9-5 was similar to buying a Vectra with a posher badge and better styling.

  23. So if the dealer network is down to 31 do we know which ones have given up?

    Here in Yorkshire I know the Harrogate people gave up some time ago.

    And have any new dealers signed on the dotted line? I know that Cambridge Saab recently convereted to Cambridge MG (having already made their larger site Cambridge Chevrolet.)

  24. Perhaps his background with Subaru (a smaller Japanese company?) would suit the set up at MG UK? That is, maybe lessons they have learnt can be passed on to MG via Sam Burton.

  25. Looking at his expanded LinkedIn profile he was also involved with Isuzu and Ssangyong (ho-hum) some time ago, also Hyundai (hooray!) Looks like he’s had a few jobs, including banking…
    Whatever, let’s hope he can get the dealer numbers up enough to justify UK assembly of the 3 and 5.

  26. I wish the new man all the best but I would be concerned that – as many have said before – he is on a loser because the company really doesn’t want to sell the cars in the first place. (Allegedly)
    From a management perspective I doubt if there ever was a comatose baboon in position – and if there was – he was allowed to be one for the reason given above.
    Individuals in senior management can make huge differences to company performance of course but if the company has its own agenda not to succeed – even super human managers (assuming we have found one) will fail.
    Are there any current MG staff reading this? Your thoughts in terms of the coal face of production would surely be welcome?

  27. So we only have 31 MG dealers? What would folk prefer an instant 600 dealers across the UK? They are not going to do that while people are saying oh chinese shit-which is now getting ever so boring,when Hyundai came to these shores they could barely offload a pony unless you stunk of piss.

    Not so now.

  28. Hilton D @33
    “Perhaps his background with Subaru (a smaller Japanese company?) would suit the set up at MG UK? That is, maybe lessons they have learnt can be passed on to MG via Sam Burton”
    Yes, I thought something similar. Will,though, Sam Burton’s appointment signal the start of a big promotional push? Why not already?

    The fall to 31 dealers ain’t too encouraging, mainly because it’s a fall as opposed to a still small number. Mind, comments above regarding Saab remind me of just what a tiny dealer network they started with. My Dad’s first 99 in the early seventies was bought from a ‘dealer’ which consisted of nothing more than a village workshop (Threlkald, Cumbria). Ok, Saab is no more but before they disappeared Cumbria’s dealer had become a big ‘glass house’ in Carlisle. The point I’m making? No reason why MG UK could not mirror this growth.

  29. If this Alastair Campbell lookalike can work some spin (sorry), then perhaps the whole MG house-of-cards may yet quiver, yet somehow stay aloft, despite predictions.

    I wouldn’t put money on it, but I’d invest a little emotional waiver on it not sagging like a souffle raised momentarily by the dying breath of the desperate hopes of those West Midlands engineers and factory workers who really need MG Motors to succeed, against expectations.

  30. @ 26,

    To try and is not strictly incorrect grammar, but if it bothers you that much I will do my best to double check my posts in the future

    As for hear instead of here, you can blame the stupid auto correct on my phone for that one, I must have mistype d here and it decided hear was a closer match.

    Neither change the fact the MG range isn’t yet fit for sale in UK, they should give up now and come back in a few years when they have a full range of cars with the issues ironed out, you can’t expect to sell anything if there is only one model, or even two when the MG3 arrives. Look where it got Saab.

  31. Good luck to him and i hope he does yield an improved performance sales wise and makes use of the BTCC success.

    How many were sold in March?

  32. The 31 dealers IS worrying. Let’s remember that back when the TF was relaunched, there was 50-odd. Now, a year on from launching a brand new car into the UK market (and supposedly only a few months away from launching another one) they’ve lost 20 or so. Whatever way you look at it, you can’t put good spin on this.

  33. the biggest mistake is not having any cars to sell. One model isn’t enough and they’ve been really slow to get MG3 out. I reckon by the time MG5 comes out, it’ll be so out of date to compared with the equivalent Hunday/Kia offerings and many years behind Ford and Opel/Vauxhall. There not even anyword on European launches yet.. Not even country by couuntry eg, Netherlands first and the rest every six months after that etc etc….

  34. Sales with Subaru 2008-2012?

    Wasn’t that the period when sales declined?

    Though a number of factors conspired:
    – The worldwide economic meltdown and UK recession in that period, after people confused ‘somewhere to live’ with ‘an investment oppurtunity’
    – Subaru abandoned the WRC, the series where they had made their name popular
    – The Impreza stopped being a sports saloon and instead was replaced with something that looked like a cross between a 1 series and a Seat Ibiza

    Still, he might light a fire under someone’s behind in MG marketing, to actually advertise the things.

  35. People of this calibre can usually name their salary and, they do not go looking for work, the work finds them by headhunters.

    If the situation is so bad at Mg as postres believe, then a company doctor / turn round expert would have been hired.

    I think MG are looking at the long-term game and we are looking at the short term game

  36. Looking at his Linklyn CV he ticks alot of boxes relevant to the function of a Car company

    Banking and Finance, Warranty cover, B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) sales.

    I’m not his PR agent by the way, just being optimistic about the future of MG and the MG3 when it is launched

  37. MM – agree entirely. Most of he detractors who post here fail to understand that the chinese business model is totally different to what we are used to. There is a long game here, and SAIC are not so concerned about the current performance of the MG6 or even the MG3, they are focusing on building up a relationship with the UK (consumers and suppliers) for the second, third and future generations of the MG6 and MG3. Just look at KIA now and compare their model range with the initial Pride offering, or Hyundai and the Pony, with where they are now. The big difference is that SAIC already have decent products, so in the next ten years chances are that they will compete head to head with Audi and BMW.

  38. I have heard of the long game but is it not going to take a ‘chuffin long time to build up customer relationships selling less cars in a month than Bentley?

  39. @51 Whats your cure then? Perhaps the UK side of SAIC/MG have worded the mothership up on attitudes to all things Chinese-possibly via (with irony)an ipad.
    It will be along game,the chinese own most of the U.S bonds/debt and are watching the euro experiment wither on the vine,why rush to satiate moaners and know alls (not aimed at you mind)when they wont buy the thing as yet?

  40. #52 – Oh believe me I have no cures!
    #50 – “Head to head with Audi and BMW” – bring it on brother! Anything that works to stop people buying ‘posh badges’ just to illustrate they have made it – yes, bring it on………
    I’m going to get lots of hate mail now from Audi/BMW owners. Darn it. (I would put a smiley face here but I don’t know how to on an IPad) Darn it again.

  41. Oh puhlease! Almost 25% of their already tiny dealer network gone, with more to close?

    SAIC cars are still a good 10 years behind engine technology wise. The 6 diesel has too high emissions, and is too expensive for what it is. And if they launch the 3 with an old tech 1.5 litre 4 pot, well, sorry, it just isn’t going to sell more than 1 a month.
    It’s already been said that they should come back in a few years, when the range is properly developed, but I feel that the MG badge is now on final life support, and is one step away from the switch off here in the UK and Europe.

    Perhaps they should come back in 10 years with a completely fresh brand, with competitive cars, then something might just happen.

    I don’t think the flood of Chinese made cars is now going to happen either for many years. Geely, its just gone almost silent, and Great Wall….NOPE

  42. @54 – you shouldn’t make the mistake of underestimating SAIC, they have grown steadily over the last decade, and if you look at some of their earlier products you would struggle to believe that they came from the same company.

    SAIC have a completely different business and planning model to the ones that we are used to. Anyway why are we worrying about sales on this website, it is not as if it has any impact on the majority of readers. We should worry less about the perceived performance of MGUK and concentrate more on the product. The MG6 is a great first attempt at a mid sector car, and the MG3 looks just as good. MG are back and are here to stay!

  43. The Chinese have the money to hire in the outside expertise to sort out their engines emissions, crash protection etc, and then they will figure out how to do it in house.

    When will they plan to go for the USA market?

    Europe, perhaps is just a training arena before they head into USA

  44. The MG6, while a good looking car and good value for money, could never win, with only 1.8 litre petrol turbo on offer which was restricted to 118 mph and whose emissions and fuel consumption were nothing to shout about. Surely this car should have been offered from the start with a normally aspirated and clean 1.8 litre and a 1.9 TDi, which would have won over the fleet markets if the MG6 was promoted aggressively. In many respects the MG 6 is good, but a limited range and the price of the car will always hamper it.

  45. Apart from the initial tv ad and a couple of dodgy sponsorship/giveaway deals MG are nowhere in the car market. I agree that the BTCC has to be used as a major marketing tool to win sales. A really hot version of the 6 with large wheels, uprated everything, would go a long way to achieve this and a proper sportscar too. The design of the Icon was great up to the rear quarter. A little more work and lower body design could see an MGB style car make a comeback.

  46. looking at Ianto’s posts , it is refreshing to find such an optimist. However, a little dose of realism would not go amiss : you do not create a sound basis for a business by producing a series of monumental sales flops . Pretending that the MG6 does not fall into this category will not alter the fact that only a handful have been sold to the general public. The difference between e.g. Hyundai and , later, Kia is that the cars they produced, which Ianto so derides, were in fact based upon proven sellers albeit with rather obsolete technology , but they were CHEAP . That created a market which they were able later to build upon with better products. Here the car is relatively expensive , sold in derisory numbers, and as a result the brand is unknown , and unless something changes, will remain so . If this chap Burton has any sense, and if the Chinese have the capital which Ianto implies ( frankly I doubt that such is the case ) , then the obvious thing to do is to reposition it in the market as a bigger car at the price of , say, a Polo – in other words dump it – and try and promote the brand so that it has at least some sort of track record to build on

  47. “The company has not, as yet, issued a formal Press Release about the appointment” – nothing new there, then?

    Good luck to Sam Burton – let’s hope he can turn it around. It certainly can’t get any worse, that’s for sure…

  48. 59 -Hi Chris.

    I wasn’t deriding (is that a verb) the Kia or Hyundai ranges of yesterday, I remember the early Pride (Ford Festiva) well and was quite fond of it’s white wall tyres, similarly the Pony which looked much more modern that an Ital or Allegro. But these cars are a world away from what they produce now, and this is also reflected in their prices. Perhaps this was not the best example to use as I wasn’t suggesting for one moment that MG should sell at discount prices – the MG6 is priced about right as it is. The Koreans have a very different business model to SAIC, and as such the only point I was trying to make is that ten years ago no one would have predicted that the Korean brands would seriously rival Ford and VW. And so it will be with MG, they have vast capital and revenue streams behind them, and they were never banking on the MG6 being an instant success. That would be far too naive. This is a long game, the brand will continue to establish itself in the UK over the next five years, whilst the design and product continue to develop and improve. Look back on these posts in 2023 and we wii see who is right.

    Anyway it is far better to be an optimist than a pessimist ( realist?).

  49. I am amazed. Guy Jones has the square root of nothing to do all day and he feels the need to hire an UNDERLING. One assumes he will blame Burton when sales fail to increase. Launch dates keep getting pushed further and further back,and lets remember Jones wanted to sell 2000 a year. Well we are almost at the 2 year point and I don’t think they’ve even hit 1000 yet. Even in the dying days of MGR with those cheapened facelift cars and the rebadged Tata Indica they were selling way more than 41 a month. From memory there were over 500 MY05 TFs produced and that was their niche model!

    The fact that Jones has not been kicked down the road already, speaks volumes to me. The Chinese see this as a PR stunt/puppet operation and are happy with the meagre success he delivers to them.

  50. The 41 sales figure is a very weak performance. The first deliveries of the diesel were last month and in spite of that they sold just five more cars than they had in March 2012 (if you remove the 200 Avis cars sold in that month). Of car manufacturers that are still going concerns only Lotus and Proton sold fewer cars than MG last month. Dacia (who are a start-up, lets not forget) managed 1,651 sales and even the sales of Great Walls (103) and Isuzus (824) who offer only pickup trucks (something you’d anticipate would be in less demand than a family car) comfortably outstrip MG’s figures.

    How this could be deemed anything other than an unmitigated failure is beyond me.

  51. Why are we so obsessed with sales, that has no impact on any of us apart from those who work for the company. I thought that the focus of this site was on the product rather than the business strategy.

    We don’t need to worry about SAIC/MG, they are big enough to look after themselves. MGs are back on sale in the UK, surely that is the most important thing. If we like the car and we have the resources, we can buy one, if not we don’t have to.

  52. I see your point but how long will we be able to buy a car from them if sales continue to form? I think it is more than a puppet operation and I’m not sure that if this level of sales continues their participation in the UK market or CKD construction at Longbridge will persist.

    I think the 6 is a good car (I do wonder if MG is the best badge for it sometimes though and if Roewe or Austin would work) that could be doing better if it was/had been better handled even in spite of its flaws. I also think, for good or for ill, the interest on this website goes beyond the product. Otherwise I don’t think we’d have a blog with sixty-odd comments about them taking on a new Head of Sales and Franchise.

  53. 31 Dealers is a worry , I cant see why anyone would take the franchise on if they only expect to sell 2 cars a month max. Tiz a shame as the 6 is a good looking car with some Rover 75 heritage.

  54. Someone mentioned Sam Burton’s previous roles with Iszuz, Hyundai and Ssangyong. All of these brands were represented – along with Subaru – in the UK by IM group. And I believe he worked for IM twice including back in the days where Subaru were selling Circe 13k cars a year in the UK.

    Also IM group have been working in China for nearly 20 years – and run a business there called Trade Assist as well as staffing the UK VIA there which is the UK Tyre Approval Agency for vehicles.

    Have a look at this http://www.imgroup.co.uk – IM is a substantial business and he will bring with him a wealth of experience.

    As a side note – IM is International Motors, started by Bob Edminston as Jenson Parts and Service.

  55. You guys are missing a point. People who buy Subarus understand that the cars are a niche product. The dealer experience is great. This means mg have a face that can walk into any subaru dealer and try to get them to sell another brand.
    I wouldn’t choose a Chinese car over an established brand. With the right price a proper warranty AND some more dealers…..there might be some more cars sold to the gullible.

  56. Wrong product, wrong price, wrong place, wrong positioning, wrong badge.

    I wish Mr. Burton the very best of luck – he’s going to need it.

  57. I guess this appointment shows how MG view their market position in the UK at least. A bit player, selling a limited and compromised model range. Either that or he’s the only person “available” to take the job on.

  58. mabie they need to use the rover name mabie there would be more car sales am sure tata would come to a deal!! lol

  59. Here’s a question, how many of us drive past an MG dealer, if we do, how many MG’s do we see parked outside, any large signs with offers, or how many of us admire the adverts in magazines, or hurry to a stand at a show, or glance sideways in traffic at one parked beside us……….just a thought?

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