MG to return to Australia
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.”