Britons (and other interested parties) – how are you liking MG now?

When Saab were being sold (both times) there were people talking about parallels with the Rover Group of brands.

What happened to Rover was long and convoluted, but basically it was sold to BMW and then broken up and sold all over the place. BMW kept Mini, of course. Range Rover went to Ford and was subsequently grouped with Jaguar, and sold.

New_mg_logoRover and MG were sold for ten quid to a bunch of tossers called the Phoenix Consortium who sent the company broke within 5 years but did OK themselves. MG Rover, as it was known at that time, was then sold to Nanjing Automotive Group, who themselves were bought by SAIC. MG Motor UK Ltd boasts the MG name under Chinese ownership and assembles vehicles at Longbridge, in England, from knockdown kits shipped over from China.

The MG6 is the company’s only real offering at the moment. It looks nothing like the cars that MG is famous for but it is selling in England albeit in modest numbers. MG also have an MG3 concept and an MG5 concept to work with, as well as the MG Icon Concept, a small SUV that took genuine plaudits in the form of the Best Concept at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show. The MG Icon took cues from the MGA and MGB, made them bigger and kept the roof on.

So, on the upside:

  • MG is still alive.
  • The current owners are laying claim to the brand’s heritage on their website, celebrating the brand’s past vehicles. They even maintain an MG Museum on site at their Birmingham compound.
  • The cars’ basic bits might be manufactured in China but they’re assembled in England for sale in the English market. MG proudly state that the cars are designed and engineered in England by a team of Britons before the blueprints are sent off to China so they can make all the widgets and doodads that eventually get assembled at Longbridge.
  • Motorsport!!! MG entered the British Touring Car Championship in 2012 and they didn’t do it half-hearted, either. They wooed Fifth Gear’s Jason Plato to lead the team and he finished third in the driver’s championship.
  • As mentioned earlier, whilst the MG6 doesn’t really resemble anything MG-ish, the Icon Concept was a genuine pointer to MG shapes of the past. It’s no two-seat roadster by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a pointer in the general direction of heritage.
  • MG are now owned by a very strong and stable owner in SAIC, which is China’s biggest car company. The resources should be in place to rebuild the MG brand with some regard for both practical 21st century motoring as well as some respect for the company’s past. If they want to.

The downsides:

  • An English icon is in the hands of the Chinese and if they don’t respect a heritage that they most likely don’t fully understand, there’s a real danger they could really cock it up.
  • Assembly in England is nice, but it doesn’t have the same gravitas as a fully English car in line with MG being a traditionally British marque.
  • The MG6 is a reasonable start, but what is it, really? Take the badge off and it’s certainly not recognisable as an MG. (On the other hand, it is on a new, modern platform. There’d be little benefit in making it an MG if that meant making it on something completely out of date).
  • Owners of MG’s previous vehicles are not supported by the new corporate parent. Partnerships exist to provide parts to owners of previous generation vehicles.
  • Reading a review of an MG where it’s praised for its ample boot space and described as “a well sorted family hatchback, not a hot hatch.”

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So, Britons and other interested parties, what say you of MG’s efforts to be alive again?

There’s a lot to be hopeful for in where MG are going. They are holding on to their heritage and trying to incorporate it into their brand management and hopefully, into their vehicle offerings (eventually).

Is this the future that Saab fans face? Alive, but maybe producing something that we have to consider rather than something we’re compelled to learn more about? Will it all work out OK in time with the company doing what’s necessary in the short term in order to have more flexibility later on?

Have your say.

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19 Comments

  1. 629 MG 6 cars on the road at the end of last year. Sales have ben going for 8 months or so.

    I have noticed one MG dealer, and seen one car on the road.

    A slow start. 47 dealers. So about one sale per month per dealer.

  2. I have seen a few (and I mean a few) MG6’s on the roads here in the UK and they certainly do not stand out as anything to aspire to.

    A collegue of mine (who is a bit of a petrolhead) has had one as a hire car a couple of times and while he says it is alright as a typical euro box vehicle, it certainly does not stand out as an MG.

    When asked if he would buy one, his response was; ‘ Why?’. I think that says it all.

    The ‘new’ MG company may have all the rights to the name and the heritage, but they certainly have no MG dna in the vehicle they are offering at the moment.

    The numbers sold are so small as to be hardly noticable at all.

    Hopefully the ‘new’ Saab company will produce something we can at least recognise has having the Saab dna.

  3. Since the early 1980s MGs were badge engineered versions of mainstream models that usually did not sit well with the competition. The current cars seem to sit well within that business model. As such, outside of the roadsters it is difficult work out what was the MG dna.

    Saab has a much more consistent heritage than MG so it is difficult to make comparisons between the two (Rover – Saab is a closer comparison).

  4. Considering that nearly every other car on the road in Britain is an import the fact that they are assembling car is a triumph, (pun intended) MGs were originally 2-seater sport cars and later had sedans base don the original Mini and the larger Austin America platform. I remember as a teenager assisting one of my best friends, in Manchester restoring a very rare MG J-2 of which only 7 had survived. It was later sold to a lucky owner in Arizona. The photo below is the same colour and you will notice the separate front mud-guards. The modern photos above have a similarity to Alfa Romeo especially the one at the bottom right.
    https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTGx2QKLgzYj5xt4nailEe5ufD_21XQ3UD3a8RDSSgJ2gPmMpE7

  5. I think MG is on the right track. They’ve recently introduced the very important diesel model of the MG 6 and I think that will help sales dramatically in the UK. When the MG 3 and MG 5 which are already on sale in China, I believe, are launched in the UK the MG brand could be back for real. It is also my understanding that once European sales have reached higher levels, the Birmingham plant will shift from CKD-kit assembly to full-scale manufacturing. I’m quite sure that the body shop and paint shop are intact and maintained for future use.

  6. Well, if we’re going to talk brand DNA…

    Here’s my take. Yes, we’re likely to face many of the same issues with a NEVS’ Saab. BUT, Saab’s brand DNA is signifigantly deeper than MG’s.

    Saab is a, albeit small, genus with recent species like Saabus Saloonicus and Saabus Sportcombius and older species like Saabus Hatchicus and Saabus Sonneticus.

    MG, on the other hand, was part of the larger genus Leylandius (later Roverus). It really only ever consisted of Leylandius Roadsterius and some strange mule like offspring such as the later Roverus Metroicus.

  7. Saab may have a more consistant heritage than MG and significantly deeper dna than MG, but what I am saying is that MG do have heritage and dna.

    The current crap…sorry, I mean crop of MG vehicles lacks any of the MG heritage or dna.

    Now what I am hoping for is that the new chinese owners of Saab recognise the significant heritage and dna of Saab and put it into their new vehicles because the new chinese owners of MG certainly have not.

    1. The SAIC MG cars have some Rover DNA but as the Rover name was sold to Ford (when Rover was broken up) and then to Tata as part of the Jaguar/Land Rover package, SAIC can’t use the Rover name and I’m sure it would be most reluctant to use it’s Roewe brand in the UK. Therefore it’s pretty much compelled to call it’s cars MGs outside of China. Barring the MG F / MG TF, there wasn’t much MG DNA in Rover’s last MGs anyway. They were pretty much just tarted up Rovers. I must admit I preferred the MG ZT to the normal Rover 75.

  8. Marius I am curious – what do you see as the MG dna? Really can’t think of any myself pre 1980, so I think there is everything to play for with NEVS.
    We will have to wait and see. By wait and see I mean in 10 or 15 years, hell maybe 20 or 30. Look at the first Hyundai Pony from the 1970s, which itself had strong links to British Leyland.

  9. 1. Thank you for informing me, that MG is still alive. I remember their nice little MG F, that, rare as it was, did appear on Slovenian roads. A few years ago, I saw one wrecked in a car accident and since then, I haven’t seen another one anywhere.

    2. I don’t like their current offerings. It may mean that the company is still alive, but what kind of life is that? It’s like Albert Einstein being reincarnated as seaweed. I mean really, what good is that?

    3. The Saab dna roots may run deeper than MG’s but in the end it will all depend on the owner’s awarenes. V.M. was accutely aware of Saab’s heritage, but has sadly failed. How much NEVS people are aware and interested in preserving it, the time has yet to tell. If they decide to make lawnmaulers, then there’s at least a small comfort in that they have changed the badge. But I didn’t lose hope. No, not yet.

  10. The main problem of MG Rover was in fact BMW. The Rover Group was quiet a healthy company with no losses in the beginning 90ties. BMW was responisable for the mismanagement that followed. Rover was forced to “premium no sporting” cars. Something, Rover wasn’t ment to be. Like GM, BMW left the Rover Group in 2000. But they sold everything they could. The new Mini and the Range Rover was developed and payed by Rover but BMW kept/sold them for their own benefit. MG Rover and the Phoenix Four had no chance, they even had to buy back the Rover Powertain facilities from BMW. You can read some more stories about MG Rover in my blog. For me as a Saab and MG Rover fan and driver, its a really horrible what happend to those marques.

    To the MG6: In fact, the MG6 shares some MG Rover DNA as it is build on an shortend Rover 75 platform. But the Chinese made the same mistake as with Saab. They didn’t buy MG as an existing company. They thought, it would be much smarter to get rid of the old problems and financial difficulties and buy the remains from the administrators. This might be ok if you need some new models for your chinese market. But if you want compete in the rest of the world, it would have been much easier to do that with an existing company that has a dealer network, motivated staff and a not through a bancrupcy tarnished brand name.

    7 years after the bancrupcy of MG Rover, SAIC manage only to sell about 1000 MG6 in Britain and only very few MG TF Roadster (in 7 years together). The reasons are obvious. I hope that NEVS is doing better!

  11. Saab still has my brand loyalty. I do buy Chinese products but that doesn’t mean that I prefer Chinese products. It all has to do with the product. So, we will see. In the meantime I will be keeping my 9-3s. Still 100%Saab.

  12. Interesting. Agree that on the up side they are still going but on the down side, are they interesting or exciting vehicles that feel like MGs when you look at them? Err, not really. But maybe they need more time to get into the groove.

    BTW Swade – MGs are also still sold in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not just England.

  13. As an owner of a 1972 MGB for the last 32 years, I had high hopes of buying a new MG in the US while they were under the ownership of BMW. Their complete failure is one of the main reasons I will never buy a BMW. The same thing (or better) they did for Mini (a far less popular and remembered brand in the US than MG) they could have easily done with MG. Now that they are in the hands of the Chinese, who have a dubious understanding of the MG heritage with their initial “Modern Gentleman” tagline, I think they will be more popular in Asia than Europe and I doubt we will ever see them in the US. While the 6 is nice enough looking, it is not an MG l would be interested in. MG has had 4 door salons from almost day one. The mid-late 1930’s MG SWV range were quite elegant and the early 1950’s Magnette’s were very sporting for their time. Even the ZT’s interested me as well.

    I hope NEVS really understands the SAAB brand and heritage, but I don’t know if it really matters what I think as it is not looking like the US is high on their radar.

  14. Under the new ownership of NAC&SAIC, MG may not have rushed back into the UK market but along with its China only sister brand Roewe has sold over 600,000 cars and is now selling in 40 countries around the world. Sales in Chile have reached 1% of all cars sold in the country, sales in China exceeded 200,000 last year, MG has just returned to New Zealand and is setting up in Austraila.

    They are rebuilding the brand from from the bankruptcy of MG-Rover and even though have only just started the company has been profitable the last couple of years and looks set to be one of the worlds major brands in another 20 years or so.

    While the same may be possible with Saab, I think it has aquired the wrong new owners; they simply don’t have the financial or political clout that NAC&SAIC has or the R&D capability of SAIC’s combined UK&China facilities…

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