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How MG is trying to make a 90-year-old brand ‘new’ again

SAIC has reputedly made more MGs than the original MG Rover made even in its best year in its former incarnations and it makes as many cars as Nissan Motors.  

MG market share 2001 to 2013  

MG market share 2001 to 2013	       
Source: SMMT/AMi  

SAIC’s investment commitments in MG are considerable. It has invested £100m since it purchased Longbridge in 2007/08.  It recently invested a further £1m in the design centre. About 500 people work at Longbridge, a mix of designers and technical experts, in addition to about 75 people at MG Motor, the sales and marketing side.  

SAIC design director Tony Williams-Kenny, a Briton who leads teams in the UK and Shanghai, is a key part of the home-grown appeal – and adds to the desirability of the brand for the Chinese market.

Burton is not privy to the five- to 10-year investment plan or the research and development budget. But he takes managing director William Wang’s word that SAIC is “very committed to making this work”.  

In many ways, the MG6 was launched to coincide with the launch of MG in China. There’s no doubt SAIC has to make it a success in China, but it’s equally very important for SAIC that MG succeeds in the UK, the brand’s ‘home’. An example of SAIC’s commitment is that it developed a diesel engine for Europe that isn’t for sale in China.


MG needs 137 dealers to cover the UK

But was launching the MG6 first, with an old engine emitting 184g/km CO2, a wise move?

“From that point of view, no it probably wasn’t. However, it was important for the MG brand to be launched,” Burton said. If MG had launched in China and not elsewhere, that could have raised questions about its intentions. Management expected the 2013 launch of the MG3 supermini to be the real “trigger point” for the UK business, given that the B-segment is the UK’s largest and it is a competent, good-value car.

The less-than-ideal order of events has led to Burton adjusting the way MG goes to market. It aims for UK registrations in excess, eventually, of 10,000 units. “Once we have a range of models to offer, we will be a very serious proposition.” 

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