MG taps into BMC’s small-car heritage to market the 3

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Jack Yan

MG celebrates its small car expertise

SAIC Motor is doing a great job in tapping to the heritage of MG and the companies that have gone before. Hop over to the SAIC–MG site and you’ll see this image to tie in to the launch of the B-segment MG 3 hatchback.

The imagery tells a good deal of the story already: the Austin 7, the Morris Minor 1000, the ADO 16, the MG ZR Mk II, the MG 3 SW, and the latest MG 3. The text refers to the 80 years of expertise that MG has had in small cars (more if you begin counting the other parts of BMC), how they are beloved of the Royal Family, how such old cars are kept by their fans in Britain and, after the company created the Mini (a particularly cheeky reference to either the 1959 or the 2000 MINI – it’s intentionally ambiguous), it’s moved on to China.

My Mandarin is non-existent but I’m guessing that the names referred to in the text are Pinyin transliterations of Morris and Cecil Kimber.

Never mind that there are probably more Britons buying new German cars these days and that BMW might not be that happy to see MG claim that it created the Mini. Technically, there is no lying here and the implied association gives MG a far better halo effect among Chinese buyers than it ever had with British ones in its waning days under UK ownership.

It also helps that the mainstream (state-run) media in Red China don’t go around rubbishing MG and Roewe like the British media were so keen to do with MG and Rover.

Early indications from Chinese websites such as China Car Times is that the MG 3’s interior quality leaves something to be desired, while MG fans at AROnline are generally negative about the styling.

This is not the MG that traditionalists know, with the TF, A or B, but then the latest MG 3 is probably on a par with the MG Metro of the 1980s as a warmed-over hatch. The MG 6, at least, doesn’t look like the Roewe 550 on which it is based – and that’s a step up from the MG Maestro of the same decade. This promotional message might not work perfectly in markets where MG can’t be readily mixed with Austin and Morris but, as a marketing exercise, the copy and the imagery imbue MG with a sense of desirability (Chinese buyers might be shifting to favouring local brands, but there’s still a bit of snobbery about foreign ones) and of proven expertise (which few of its rivals can claim).

It’s the sort of sophistication that few would give credit to a Chinese automaker for having. However, it shows that imagination and humour are not lacking in Shanghai – and, even if you don’t like the look of the 2011 MG 3, it’s at least original, unlike the Toyota clones coming from BYD. At this rate, the occident should be worried about the rise of the Chinese motor industry, because even the marketing is getting cleverer.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams


  1. Why be worried about a Chinese onslaught from a company which has no intention of launching here, coupled to a hopeless PR team? (Please prove me wrong).

    Original? It’s a Chinese facsimile of a Skoda Fabia. Oh, and what has Herbert Austin’s 7 got to do with arch-rival Lord Nuffield’s Morris Garages? With lineage like that, you might as well stick the Damiler Benz Motorwagen in that photoshop.

  2. I expect SAIC Motor’s argument will be it used a small team of Engineers at Longbridge to cut up a Punto for research etc. but, apart from that and a badge, what has the MG3 got do with the rest of the cars in this advert? There is no DNA to relate them.

    I feel a little uncomfortable with someone bragging and taking credit for something from the past which they’ve had nothing to do with.

    SAIC Motor/MG are the ‘Walter Mitty’ of the car industry – at least the MINI is made at the old Morris factory by British workers but the MG3 isn’t made or sold here.

  3. Well, given that they could have picked any model from Rover’s past to represent the marque, what do they pick? A P6? An SD1? No, a bloody Streetwise…

  4. The latest in a long tradition of small Brtish cars? Err, no. The latest in a long line of MGs? Not really. That might work in China, but please don’t try that advertising line here!

  5. @Wilko
    It’s actually a Chinese market MG3 SW, not the Rover (according to the article).

    Luckily for them, no one in China will have any clue about the anomalies in the advert and will accept history as they have written it! (something the Chinese will be used to from the past…)

  6. Wilko :Well, given that they could have picked any model from Rover’s past to represent the marque, what do they pick? A P6? An SD1? No, a bloody Streetwise…

    SAIC Motor does not own the Rover marque or have the legal rights to use it so are not tapping into its heritage. The reference to the “bloody Streetwise” (personally I rather liked the vehicle) relates to the model being mildly revised and launched in China in 2008 as the MG3 SW.

  7. Looks good, although, I’m not entirely sure the Austin 7 should be there – might not the Morris Cowley, perhaps, be more appropriate?

    I guess that, very strictly speaking, this lineage should probably relate more to the MG6. Anyway, as NAC/SAIC own the Austin name, they can do pretty much what they want with it…

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