MG Gunning For Kia; Bet You Never Imagined Hearing That
MG, now owned by Chinese auto maker SAIC, is apparently gunning for Kia and beyond. But despite their lofty ambitions, MG hasn’t made much headway in the automotive world.
Despite being on sale for a few years (and garnering some positive reviews) MG has sold less than 1,000 cars in the UK – the only European market where its cars are sold. MG’s dismal sales have been blamed on the lack of a diesel option for its mid-size MG6, which competes in a segment where a majority of the cars sold are diesel versions purchased for fleet use.
A diesel engine is now available and MG is expanding sales into Scandinavia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Two new compact cars, a crossover and a city car will be added by 2016. The new models will all be built in England at the old MG Rover plant in Longbridge, but the brand has a long way to go if they want to catch up to the 90,000 units sold annually in China.
One analyst interviewed by Automotive News was less than optimistic about MG’s prospects
“Kia [and Hyundai] have invested a great deal in marketing, sales networks and creating this positive brand image, which I can’t see SAIC being prepared for…I really don’t see them being able to get anywhere near where Kia is now by the end of the decade.”
I hope they make it work . -Nate
Aside from the lack of a diesel, the other big issues are the pathetic dealership network and almost total lack of marketing. You can't sell a car that people don't know about, and you certainly can't sell a car that nobody can find. The few MG dealers that are around have little to no signage and tend to have just 1 or 2 cars in inventory, usually shoved back into a dimly lit corner of the showroom. The 6 is decent value, basically it's a large family car that sells for the price of a small family car, and even the base models are fairly well equipped for the price. The lack of a diesel really is killer though, and the fact that it's a sort of middle of the road product - good, but not quite great - isn't the best thing in such a highly competitive market. The bottom line is that I doubt SAIC is really interesting in making a big push in the UK at all. They keep the Longbridge plant ticking over as a loss leader in order to give MG more credibility as a "British" brand for Chinese consumers. If they sell a few in the UK on the side, that's a bonus, if they don't, no big deal. They're making enough cash in China to more than cover it.
Eventually maybe, in 10 years? with the designs Kia is producing and the reliability that the Hyundai/Kia platforms are showing right now? I don't think so. SAIC might be able to move beyond being a design by committee type corporation but the way things work here in China culturally, I highly doubt it. Which means they are going to be as bland or more bland than Toyota without the brand cachet or reliability that Toyota has taken 40+ years to develop.
Forget the toast that MG's pumping now. Sell the badge to KIA - see if they can pull a Miata with an MG badge - why not? That's just starters. Expand into an MG sport variant of the sedan range and race Alfa in the NA market.