MG has been building its 1995-era MGF (now MG TF) at its Longbridge, UK plant off and on since 2007, but it’s been a purely knock-down assembly affair, with kits being shipped in from Nanjing, China. But a new British-built MG is about to go into production since the brand was bought by Nanjing Auto in 2005 (Nanjing has since merged with SAIC). Called the MG6, the new compact sedan isn’t completely built at Longbridge (UK workers build and fit the engines, as well as installing the front suspension and subframe, exhaust system and electrics, but bodyshells are shipped from China), but it was designed and engineered at SAIC Motor’s European technical center in the Midlands.
Is that British enough for you?
Assembly starts next Wednesday, and MG’s execs hope the model will be a springboard into other European markets (MGs are currently sold only through 38 UK dealers). But with production limited to only 10,000 units, SAIC is taking a deliberately small-scale approach to rebuilding its battered British brand (the brand’s unofficial motto: “under-promise, over-deliver”). And given the neglect and abuse the MG brand has been subjected to over the years, a slow, steady rebuilding strategy is what a turnaround will take. The MG6 may not fulfill the repressed yearnings of the MG faithful, but it’s a pragmatic start. And with talk of a new roadster, there are still signs that the brand understands its core (not wildly pragmatic) mission. MG fans need only glance at the Saab situation to count themselves lucky.
Reviews of the MG6 have been mixed, typically focusing on the sporty, MG-worthy handling and weak, MG-worthy interior quality. ChinaCarTimes has a good wrap-up of the UK press reaction, concluding that
It’s obvious that MG is getting some good reviews from major automotive outlets (aside from the Express and Star) and should easily reach its first year aim to sell a mere 2,000 units in the UK market. The fact that the car is mostly made in China and assembled from kits does not seem to affect the UK automotive press. The ear and nose hair brigade (aka MG Enthusiasts) do not seem to be pleased by the new MG styling, although their opinion can largely be discounted as they believe anything produced later than the MG Midget is not a real MG, plus they tend to buy their motors once they are antiques and being sold for pennies on Ebay, so not exactly the target audience this time around – although it should be said that enthusiasts do some good for the brand with their mad ranting.
Isn’t globalization grand?