Back at Longbridge yesterday to pick up an MG6 saloon, as I’ve yet to sample one first hand. PR man Doug Wallace greeted me and we had a quick chat about the company’s current position and some of the future plans – I also put a few of your questions to him. First thing’s first, it’s obvious that the boys at Longbridge have read my last blog about the company’s lack of marketing, and I must admit that it was with a sense of trepidation that I went in to the on-site showroom…
As it happened, things went well, and although I vented my frustration at a lack of a diesel MG6 (‘they are in testing and arrive next year’), concerns about UK-China communications (‘we’re still working on that, but they do care about Longbridge’), marketing (‘we’re getting the word out – Birmingham airport is a good example’), and ongoing customer care for older cars (‘we do look after these and we’re committed to the MG TF’), it’s clear that, in tough trading conditions, MG is still looking forwards.
Sales of the MG6 have clearly been a disappointment, having spent more time with one, it’s clear that the product is fundamentally a good one – but the level of public awareness is abysmal. A good example – I rolled up to my house yesterday afternoon and a random stranger came up and spoke to me. ‘That’s a lovely car, mate,’ he says. ‘Chinese aren’t they?’ he goes on.
I am quick to correct – it’s a Chinese company, British designed and engineered, and assembled in the UK in Birmingham. ‘Really,’ he exclaims. ‘I have a 54-plate MG ZT, am looking for a new car and had no idea. I’m from Coventry and had no idea.’
Considering he’s almost in the back garden of Longbridge that really is disappointing – especially as he seemed to care about MG and is currently looking for a replacement for his ZT. And to go on – the last two cars that passed through my hands to attract comments from random strangers were a Jaguar XJ and Lamborghini Murcielago. Impressive…
Back to the MG6. Have to say it’s clear that the interior quality has improved since the last car I drove. The saloon body style looks better and more homogeneous than the fastback, even if you lose a little practicality – and, on the drive, it gives off good vibes, certainly not ‘budget’ or ‘low rent’. There are a few minor irritations – the throttle is too light (a stronger spring in it would make driving far smoother), the stereo sounds tinny, the leather doesn’t feel good (I’d buy a boggo model with cloth, anyway) and, er, that’s about it. Dynamically, it’s there or thereabouts (firmish ride, stiff-legged damping, roll-free cornering, good steering and brakes), exterior build quality is tight with good paint finish and reasonable panel gaps, the interior plastics are solid and it all feels well screwed together.
And it all has me wondering why they don’t sell more of the things.
And, of course, we already know the reason – public awareness. Or a lack of marketing. Get the word out, make the world know that MG is back and building cars for non-conformists and, even if the 6 isn’t the right car for many (and won’t be until the diesel comes), at least get generate some showroom traffic. Get bums on seats, people in showrooms, and simply talking about MG. And then sort out some tempting finance packages to go with the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 deal you’ve announced – I imagine a lot of people would buy one if they could get one for £199 per month all in with guaranteed residuals…
People still care about MG – so here’s a message to Longbridge and Shanghai: