MG will re-enter the Australian market officially next month (August). The re-born Brit brand, now wholly owned by Chinese giant, SAIC, will initially offer a single model for sale and expects to appoint dealers in all eastern state capital in the coming weeks.
The first car to go on sale Down Under is the MG 6. Available in liftback (GT) and sedan (Magnette) body styles, the MG 6 is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine matched exclusively to a five-speed manual gearbox. Three equipment grades are available.
The entry-level S is priced at $22,999 (plus on-road costs), with $27,999 (plus on-road costs) buying the top of the range TSE.
MG’s newest model, the MG 3 Light segment hatch, and an as yet unnamed compact SUV model will join the MG 6 in local showrooms in 2014. An auto (dual clutch) equipped MG 6 is also on early 2014 timeline. Meantime, MG’s all-new MG 5 medium car is still on SAIC’s drawing board and is not expected to debut until 2015 at the earliest.
The new MG models are unrelated to the ill-fated re-emergence of the brand in the early 2000s. In deference to the brand’s history, however, SAIC’s MG design and engineering resources are housed at the former home of MG, Longbridge in the British Midlands.
The Australian MG importer is ground-up, all-new operation. MG Motor Australia, has purchased one of the former Rick Damelian sites on Parramatta Road in the Sydney suburb of Petersham. The new company is founded and funded by Chinese automotive interests but is a private importer distributor not connected to SAIC.
MG Motor Australia is headed by automotive enthusiast, Andrew Shaw. According to Shaw, the operation has already invested in excess of $12M in its set up. It expects to commence retail operations at its Petersham within weeks.
Also expected to be confirmed in coming weeks is MG’s first tranche of dealers.
“We’ve very close now to rubber-stamping [confirming] the first [dealers],” Shaw told motoring.com.au.
“We’re primarily looking for: New South Wales and Sydney-based; Victoria, Melbourne-based; and Queensland, Brisbane-based [dealers]…. In the next 12 months, I would see potentially no more than 20 dealers,” he said.
“We don’t want to have too many [dealers]. We want each to have enough of a patch and enough of the [retail new car] sales that we want to see happen — which are probably only going to be something in the region of 400-500 in the next six months,” he said.
Shaw believes the new MGs will attract a wide range of buyers. He says existing MG fans and aficionados will make up only a fraction of buyers. Initially, the brand will seek to appeal to buyers looking to step outside the square, he says.
“So they’re [SAIC] looking at MG as: we, we want to produce a quality product. So that’s where we need to get as many people behind the wheel, as fast as we can — so that they realise what true value there is in the car that they’re buying.
“It’s not a cheap Chinese car, but it’s a very affordable car that happens to be made by a Chinese owner — one that was designed and engineered by a team of 300-plus designers and engineers out at Longbridge; the original home of MG in the UK,” Shaw opined.
MG Motor’s UK website states the Longbridge operation is “responsible for developing the initial concepts for all new MG vehicles.
“The department also ensures that each model meets the latest in European legislation and customer requirements… Under the leadership of David Lindley, the engineers here work on all MG products for Europe, and support product development in China and other world markets.”
UK market MG 6s undergo “final assembly” at the Longbridge facility. Australian market cars are fully assembled at MG/SAIC’s production facility in Lingang, China.
Shaw says MG’s UK development team is already in regular touch with the fledgling Aussie operation.
“I interact with them on a weekly basis… So [they are interested in] nuances about the car… You want something special for Australia? What do we need? Is there anything that would be required here? [Also] Marketing promotions and ideas that they’ve had that have worked,” Shaw stated.
SAIC has built around 300,000 MGs in the last two years. The brand currently exports to over 20 markets including Latin America and the Middle East. In the UK the company sells a number of MG 6 variants including one that pays homage to the company’s entry into the British Touring car Championship.