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History and Ownership

MG was founded in Abingdon UK in 1927 by Cecil Kimber, and looking to expand service/repair activities started offering ‘souped-up’ versions of Morris saloons.  Mr Kimber soon realised there was a market for open sports car motoring and was very successful in building and selling small but nippy two-seaters based upon Morris mechanical components, world-wide and especially to American ex-servicemen after WW2.  Inevitably corporate envy saw ownership passing to William Morris and thence through a series of politically- and financially-damaging mergers and take-overs during which time loved classics such as the MGA and MGB were designed and built.

Entrepreneurial import Michael Edwardes had closed the MG factory down in 1987 but when Rover Group ownership passed into British hands (the Phoenix 4) the brand was revived in the Kimber mould, to offer updated and more sporty versions of existing Rover cars - the 75, 45 and 25.  The MG name had also been re-introduced in 1996 for the TF RWD sports car.   These cars were what the modern MG should always have been and were highly regarded.  Again due to internal company reasons (how much time can you spare for this?) as well as from political interference, the total failure of the much-shrunken Rover Group occurred in 2006.  

The Chinese SAIC group through a subsidiary picked up the MG brand name together with the original Austin factory - a whole field-full of brown-field redevelopment potential, MG-TF and other tooling and factory parts stock.  They recommenced production of cost-reduced CKD kits for the charismatic MG TF sports car in China - final assembly taking place in the then-defunct Austin factory in Birmingham.  A few of these cars were sold.  

In China, work then began on design and build of the MG-badged cars primarily for the Chinese market, but plans were also laid for UK final assembly of kits for the very much debased MG6 saloon which was a diluted image of the defunct Rover 75 while still using the 75 body shell.  Car final assembly from kits was finally abandoned in Birmingham and fully built cars were briefly imported direct from China until it was realised the very low volume was unsustainable.  Plug pulled, none too soon!  

SAIC still retains a small portion of the old Longbridge site, having sold major parts for brown-field development of homes, a university and commercial/retail premises.  Remains of the old company include a new car showroom (the converted Austin car styling shop) and a small office block from which new car design was purported to be overseen.  However there is no sign of Anglification of the current MG designs.  Had skilled UK designers and engineers been actively involved in their development, the current cars would be different from what has actually been achieved.  So what are they doing?

Brand Equity

Not much at all.  Those who fondly remembered their ownership of a traditional MG many years ago, are now pushing up daisies.  The MGF and MG-TF have a small following among classic car nuts and mechanics, but the attrition curve is steepening and it is very unusual to see one of these cars on the road except to attend classic car shows.  Recent new car ownership trending shows promiscuity in brand choice, reducing the possibility of repeat MG purchases - irrespective of current brand ownership experience.  A recent survey shows that continuing (Chinese) MG ownership is driven by the inability of owners to sell their used cars outside the MG franchise for any realistic price, rather than being driven by the wish to keep their MGs for longer periods.  Owners report poor initial quality and service unreliability

Conversely, the low pricing of used MG cars makes them a comparative bargain for low mileage users - high cost-per-mile factors being ignored by such purchasers.

Retail Network

As with all marginal car brands, prospective owners must research whether there is a truly local MG dealer who is both knowledgeable and customer-oriented.  MG owners have stated in a survey that the small dealers where the owner is actively involved day-to-day in the business, try to give excellent service despite poor parts availability and lack of specialist factory support.  

Customer Experience

Comments received about the product itself have been neutral to adverse, although their dealer is very often praised as being very helpful and sympathetic.  The sample is too small and the comments too extreme to enable more accurate analysis (Omnibus Survey data).

Worthy Past Models

All T-series open traditional MG’s ending with the TF produced up to 1956 in Abingdon.

All MGA - especially the notoriously unreliable but very much liked Twin-cam - and the ubiquitous MGB.  These cars are still classic car enthusiasts choices.

The more contemporary MGF and MG-TF being fully in-house designed and built were pretty much flawed, but as so often happened with British Leyland group products were ‘fixed’ by motor enthusiasts and today give owners great pleasure to drive and with good reliability, whether pottering or in serious motor-sport.  Chinese-version MG-TF’s are rare and generally not liked.

Performance-enhanced variants of Rover models being the MG ZR, ZS and ZT built up to 2006.  The ZT with Ford 4.6 litre V8 is particularly prized, even though an ‘animal’ to drive - strictly a car for driving-skilled enthusiasts.  High-trim Rover 75 and the extremely rare Rover ‘6’ are particularly sought..

Current MG Models

Summarising the current model ranges, styling is not particularly comfortable to sophisticated Western eyes, while interiors suffer from undue hard plastic and an infotainment screens resembling something from Fisher-Price for 3-year-olds.  Technically, power units do not exhibit any enthusiasm and this is primarily dictated by reliance upon inadequately sized and specified engines - some being buiilt in-house while others are imported from other manufacturers - e.g., GM.  Driving comfort is compromised by extremely hard springs and dampers although road-holding on smooth roads is good due partly to that excessively stiff suspension, a lack of power and to well-specified tyres - the latter interestingly imported from Taiwan.  Due to the lack of suspension compliance, rough terrain handling is not to be advised.  Owners typically run these cars with tyres less inflated than is specified by MG and this cushions the worst bumps - although such actions can never be recommended.  Fitting ‘cheap’ non-resilient tyres makes the inherent poor ride comfort and road-holding even less acceptable

MG-3 - A recent facelift to put in a front grille is moderately successful, the car does not resemble an Aygo front grille but one from a Hyundai.  A boot-lid and lamp re-style is more successful.  No other notable changes, not even to the suspension

MG ZS  - A compact SUV with very small petrol engines or with battery-only, starting from a premium of about £10,000 and with VERY favourable lease-buy incentives.

MG-HS - Medium-sized SUV, better styling but brand characteristic faults remain.  At the moment, petrol only.  Only brief-tested.  Some adoption of electronic driver aids referred to as “MG Pilot”.

All cars are cheaply priced and thus particularly accessible to buyers who otherwise might be restricted to used cars.  Despite this, relatively large discounts remain available.  With the exception of the ZS-EV which carries a heavy price premium, all cars are petrol powered and thus only suited to low-mileage private buyers with low demands upon power.

Future Strategic Plan

There appears to be no discernable future plan revealed by the Principals in China.  It is therefore assumed their primary focus is upon achieving profitable volumes in their home market, with a low level of incremental sales in overseas markets.  Can low sales volumes in export markets such as the UK be sustained long-term?