MG to re­turn to Aus­tralia

The Advertiser - Motoring - - NEWS - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER

THE his­toric MG brand will be born again in Aus­tralia next year with two baby cars and a new SUV.

China’s largest au­to­mo­tive con­glom­er­ate, SAIC Group, has am­bi­tious ex­port plans for MG and has tar­geted Aus­tralia as an early beach­head de­spite a pre­vi­ous fail­ure with an in­de­pen­dent im­porter that leaves more than 300 un­sold cars in the coun­try.

The new­com­ers are a man­ual-only MG 3 hatch that’s sim­i­lar in size to a Toy­ota Yaris, the larger auto-only MG 6 to com­pete in the Mazda3 class de­spite a slightly larger body, and the all-new MG GS cross­over.

This time around, MG is open­ing as a full fac­tory op­er­a­tion in a move con­firmed this week at the Dubai mo­tor show by lo­cal boss Ja­son Pe­cotic and SAIC’s head of in­ter­na­tional busi­ness oper­a­tions, Yang Xiaodong.

“Our strat­egy is to be glob­alised. We have a very ag­gres­sive glob­al­i­sa­tion plan for the next five years,” Xiaodong says. “MG used to be an af­ford­able mini sports car. Th­ese are the leg­endary cars. Now we want to re­design the ve­hi­cle to be more fash­ion, more dy­namic. We have re­designed it to fit more mar­kets and more cus­tomers ... us­ing our low-cost base.”

Chi­nese brands have strug­gled for trac­tion in Aus­tralia be­cause of low qual­ity, al­though Great Wall utes did well for a time off the back of low prices.

SAIC says its ap­proach is dif­fer­ent be­cause of its ex­pe­ri­ence, high-qual­ity part­ners in Volk­swa­gen and Gen­eral Mo­tors, and the power it has as a For­tune 500 busi­ness and the world’s No.9 car­maker.

Xiaodong says SAIC is China’s “big­gest au­to­mo­tive in terms of sales, rev­enue and vol­ume”, in­clud­ing the MG brand it bought dur­ing the col­lapse of the Bri­tish com­pany.

MG is be­ing re­vived us­ing Bri­tish de­sign and engi­neer­ing ex­per­tise but SAIC is also es­tab­lish­ing a $30 mil­lion man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Thai­land — sim­i­lar to ex­ist­ing oper­a­tions for Ford, Honda and many oth­ers — that will be the spring­board for right-hand drive pro­duc­tion.

The open­ing ar­rivals of the MG 3 and 6 next year will come from China but sourc­ing will be switched quickly to Thai­land.

“To­day we still ex­port from China. But in fu­ture we will build up a right-hand drive man­u­fac­tur­ing base in Thai­land. So, in fu­ture, Thai­land will ship to Aus­tralia,” he says.

Al­though the MG 3 and 6 are age­ing, the GS is com­pletely new and pre­views a three­model line-up of SUVs.

It is set to com­pete in the Mazda CX-5 class with a 2.0-litre petrol turbo en­gine which MG says will pro­vide “high-per­for­mance driv­ing” for SUV cus­tomers, likely at a price that sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­cuts its Ja­panese and South Korean ri­vals.

But the job is only just be­gin­ning and Xiaodong says Aus­tralia will be an early adopter for the MG line-up.

“We will be a full range of prod­uct port­fo­lio,” he prom­ises.

“We will cover all the pas­sen­ger seg­ments.

“Maybe not a lux­ury car.”

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