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.
Rover 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.
- 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.”
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.