MG Motor plans to grow footprint in Australia
MG was never a household name here, but some aggressive plans for expansion Down Under from the now Chinese-owned brand might change that…
CHINESE-OWNED MG is in the middle of rapid expansion as parent company SAIC, one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, begins to revamp the brand after its failed starts with the MG6 and MG3. The introduction of the MG GS SUV, which we drove last week, is the brand’s first toe in the SUV water; a growing and highly competitive segment.
The MG GS is a small-medium size SUV which compares in size with the Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5. In our drive we found that although it was not up to the quality fit-and-finish of the Korean and Japanese rivals it offers a good chassis with competitive packaging. However, it’s the incoming MG ZS which might start to raise some interest from the booming SUV market with its contemporary styling and, if it can drive as well as the GS but with improved NVH, it could be a winner.
Speaking with Marketing & Communications Senior Manager of SAIC Australia, Danny Lenartic, Practical Motoring was told SAIC will be pushing the MG brand hard in Australia and in particular its new SUV offerings: “SAIC is a big business and they’ve done a lot of research into the market, especially on moving forward into the future, and the SUV market is growing phenomenally in this country.
“At the price point and with all the bells and whistles these cars offer, I think we’ll find even in this cluttered market a gap for this vehicle.
“The ZS is going to be a phenomenal car for a smaller segment.” (Think Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V).
The SUV line-up won’t stop there for MG Australia, with the potential for SAIC to source a large SUV from it’s well stocked stable and put an MG badge on it.
“Is there room for more in the segment? Well, plans are to bring in a smaller variant, obviously, and to work on the compact class. We’ll have those two (GS and ZS) to cover both of those segments and I’m not sure what’s in the pipeline moving forward in terms of larger,” Lenartic said.
“I did see something in the Guangzhou motor show from SAIC, but whether that has an MG badge and is brought to Australia I’m not too sure,” Lenartic postured.
The bounty of potential cars for MG to procure is the benefit of being owned by SAIC, which has the largest production volume of any Chinese automotive maker.
A member of the SAIC family, but imported and distributed in Australia by Ateco Automotive, LDV will launch its T60 ute here in October; the brand is already well known in Australia for its range of commercial vans with around 40 dealers across the country. And LDV is only going to grow its presence in Australia with the launch, later in the year, of its D90 SUV (D90 Concept pictured below).
East coast expansion
With only three dealers between Sydney and Brisbane in Australia, the big question at the launch of MG’s GS SUV was how does a potential customer in Melbourne buy one?
“When we get a dealer network there will be able to no problem at all,” says Andrew Huenerbein, business development senior manager at SAIC Australia.
Not just a flippant comment to appease a glaring question, Huenerbein is confident we will see a dealership in Melbourne soon, along with Adelaide and many more on the south-east coast too.
“We’re getting pretty close but we’re really personality matching to the brand.
“In Melbourne we’ve got a couple of groups that we’re talking to and we’re hoping that within months (we’ll have one).” he said.
“There’s a few but I can’t talk about them because we’re under confidentiality agreements.”
What was more surprising is the plan to expand to up to seven dealerships in both Sydney and Melbourne.
“We’ve worked out we probably need more like between 7 and 9 (in Melbourne), so we’ve got average throughput and so that we can have our dealers in the right places. And probably around about six or seven (dealers) in Sydney.”
But plans for the large growth are somewhat curtailed to keep the focus on customer service rather than sales. Huenerbein said: “We may not want to have seven dealers in Sydney within 3 or 4 months because we’d be over crowded and we wouldn’t be able to offer good service to the customers.
“I don’t think it would be 5 or 7 in Sydney or Melbourne in a 12 month period, but we’d like to have the points covered strategically.” he said.
As for the other major cities – Brisbane (currently with one dealership), Adelaide and Perth – the plan is not so aggressive, and West Coasters may have some waiting to do before buying a MG locally.
“(In Brisbane) we’ve got one there at the moment which we think is enough in the short term. Adelaide we’ll look at, but we’re not going to go over to Perth just yet. It’s a little bit too far. It’s a great market, great people, and we’ll certainly be there in some form, but we’re concentrating on making sure we get things right on the east coast first.
MGs cars are currently shipped from China into Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, which is set to change once the cars begin production in Thailand.
Question: Can a reborn MG make a mark in Australia with SUVs only?