So, now we have the news that MG Motor UK is wrapping up its UK assembly operation in the UK. The reality is that this will surprise no one, and draws to a close the most unsatisfying aspect of the post-MG Rover apocalypse once and for all. For the poor 25 people who have lost their jobs as a consequence, we offer our sincere condolences.
Back in 2011, I posted a blog entitled, MG UK: So long, and thanks for all the fish. In it, I complained vociferously about MG Motor UK’s appalling marketing strategy, and how it was undermining a perfectly capable car, and humiliating the good name of the badge nailed to its nose and rump.
In the blog, I concluded, ‘production in Longbridge is clearly not part of SAIC’s global plans for MG and, if it fails after a couple of years, at least the head honchos in China can say they gave it a shot, and ultimately failed – leaving the Birmingham factory open to become the R&D centre it was always planned to be.’
Give them their due, they held on for five years (at least, officially).
Since that blog, we’ve seen the company descend further into farce, squandering opportunity after opportunity to bring back limited manufacturing to the UK with a selection of honest, well-priced cars. During that time, there have been glimmers of hope – with the arrival of the MG3, and its great packaging, price and performance, MG Motor UK should have been onto a winner.
Instead, all I remember it for now is its ‘interesting’ launch at Butlins – which, at one point, saw us ushered into a stage show, where the two protagonists ended up arguing, and we, the amassed journalists, were thrown out unceremoniously – and yet, the test drive actually had me believing that the company could actually do something here…
However, these glimmers have been rare. And rather like, John Cleese’s exasperated character in Clockwise, ‘It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand,’ I’ve constantly felt this way about MG Motor UK. The MG6 was a nice car to drive, the MG3 is a very appealing little thing, as for the MG GS, I have no opinion, as I have yet to drive it. I suspect, compared with the Citroen C4 Cactus I’m currently driving, it’ll probably be underwhelming and unimaginative.
All okay cars, then, but marketed, advertised and sold in a particularly slipshod, careless, unprofessional manner unbecoming of an operation that claimed confidently on the side of its main building in Birmingham to be a proud builder of cars in the UK. It also throws into focus the brilliant job as custodian that Tata has done with Jaguar Land Rover, and to a lesser extent, BMW has done with MINI. They’re doing well, expanding, and proving that British car companies make desirable cars that people want – and under foreign direction.
So, where does that leave MG Motor UK now? Well, it’s an importer. So, as such we can stop covering news about the product. The SMTC (SAIC Motor Technical Centre) is still active and, as such, doing great work – so we’ll be watching what they’re up to – but, as for the MG3 and GS, what news we hear on them will be as relevant to this site as Alfa Romeo or Subaru – small-selling importers. So, it will effectively stop.
In a way, that’s a relief for me – because it’s a point where I can draw a line. The post-2005 British Motor industry story has been a success on the whole. It’s just that MG is not – and never really has been – a part of that.
Ta-ta for now!