Well, that’s it – as Mike Humble confirmed in his recent First Drive story on the MG GS, MG Motor UK has pulled the plug on the 6, with the final unsold cars in the dealer network not being replaced when they’re gone. Given this was the first all-new car to wear the MG badge, post-2005 apocalypse, it should have been a hugely momentous car for Britain but, in the end, poor sales, a lacklustre image and the stench of failure will probably result in this car’s demise here going unlamented. Mind you, in time, it’ll probably end up being another of those gilt-edged classic cars us Brits are so good at screwing together.
I should say at this point that I like the MG6. I always did. It probably helps that I know some of the key players in its development and marketing, and it’s a car whose conception, birth, life and death, I’ve followed more closely than any other. I like the way it looked, the way it drove (largely) and its traditional ‘dad car’ packaging. However, given that I love a loser and, as we all know, the ‘dad car’ is a dying breed in the UK, it was probably doomed – even before it went on sale.
When I first drove the MG6 back in March 2011, it was at the lowest-budget launch I’ve ever encountered. Forget the idea of the exotic far-flung location, stunning hotel and wonderful roads, this was warm tea, stale sandwiches and a cheery wave goodbye from the chaps in the Longbridge Roundhouse as we drove into the rain-soaked Midlands. Despite that, though, I really warmed to the 6. It had fine steering, was well-damped and came at a not-scandalously high price if you avoided the top model.
I concluded: ‘The MG6 is the product of an ambitious company, which has realistic expectations from its UK soft-launch – it’s much better than we had expected it to be. It’s going to appeal to keen drivers who appreciate a tactile, well-damped car, which is far less extreme than the old MG Zed car range. It’s for the family man in a hurry and, preferably, with a company fuel card. It’s a pity that the saloons and turbodiesels aren’t available from launch – both of which will massively extend the appeal of the MG6 – but, as it stands, we’ll give it a thumbs-up. MG is back – and there’s so much more to come.’
Little did I realise that, although MG Motor UK’s Chinese parent company, SAIC Motor, might been ambitious, there was little time, money or talent put into its UK marketing. Aside from a dismal TV ad and some magazine inserts, here was a new car on the UK market, wearing a UK badge – designed and engineered here, too – that absolutely no one in the wider world knew about. More importantly, it soon became apparent that only a small number who were aware of the MG6 actually gave two hoots.
As far as AROnline‘s readership was concerned, this car divided opinion like no other. A significant proportion liked its continuity with the pre-apocalypse range, but hated its Chinese connection. Others thought it was good news for Longbridge, but disliked the fact it was a car that had few – if any – mass market USPs. And it was universally hated for one thing – the seeming inability of its maker to market and sell the damned thing.
The diesel came along in 2013, and really was a case of too little late. Which, again, was a shame, because it was a nice little power unit – a Chinese clone of BMW’s brilliant M47 engine – and, like the petrol K-Series (sorry, TCI-Tech) powered models, was light and nimble to drive. However, the market remained ignorant of its abilities, with monthly sales figures in the UK struggling to limp into the dozens – this was an utter humiliation for the once-proud MG marque.
The MG3 was better – a proper launch, and annual sales figures into four figures, which meant that MG Motor UK was finding its feet falteringly. But even though the 3 had more obvious showroom appeal than the 6, it’s the bigger car that I remained more warm towards. Now, I’ll never own one new – which might be a good thing really, as losing big in the depreciation game is something I’ve never aspired to. Perhaps it’s time to consider buying one – it looks like around £3500 is the entry point on Auto Trader.
So, as the MG6 makes way for the MG GS, we can only hope that its importer has learned from the former’s undoubted and profound failure. Had it been a success, we may well be toasting a return to volume production at Longbridge but, as it is, the factory remains silent and all MGs now appear to be imported. The MG6 might not have set the world on fire in the UK, and may one day be studied by marketing students as a case study on how not to do things, but I like it – and I’m sad to see it go.
I just wish they’d listened to me and sorted out its lousy, stinking, sodding ignition key!