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Shanghai show: MG coupe to short-circuit Tesla

Down down: The MG E-motion coupe is MG’s first attempt at a sportscar since the former British brand went Chinese.

MG’s Chinese electric E-motion could be one-third the price of equivalent Teslas


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19 Apr 2017


SAIC Motor has fired a warning shot across the bows of Tesla and other electric vehicle-makers by suggesting its “almost production ready” all-electric MG E-motion sports coupe could be sold at a third of the price of the American company’s $162,116 Tesla Model S.

China’s biggest motor company has also suggested that it is preparing advanced new battery technology for its new modular electric vehicle (EV) platform that is set to spawn a number of vehicles across its MG and Roewe ranges.

Revealed today at the 2017 Shanghai motor show in SAIC’s home town, the 2+2 MG E-motion coupe marks a return to MG’s sporting heritage that, before the “Morris Garages” went financially belly up early this century and was taken over by Chinese interests in 2005, was renowned for sportscars such as the MG TC, MGA, MGB and MG Midget.

The E-motion is said to be capable of accelerating from standstill to 100km/h in less than 4.0 seconds and covering a range of 500km on a full battery charge.

With its butterfly doors and sleek lines, the Shanghai-designed E-motion is a dramatic departure from the conventional sedans, hatches and SUVs that have populated the MG range since it became part of the giant SAIC conglomerate that produced 6.5 million cars last year, most in partnership with General Motors and Volkswagen.

While MG executives are saying a production version of the E-motion is just a matter of when, it is less than certain that a right-hand-drive version will be forthcoming.

To a large extent, that will depend on the prospects for such a car in the United Kingdom, which is MG’s strongest export market to date and spiritual home.

SAIC Motors Passenger Car Shanghai design centre director Shao Jingfeng told journalists at a pre-show reveal of the E-motion concept that the design was “close to production ready”.

He said most of the design and engineering work had been done, and that it would take as little as 18 months to get it to production.

Asked what sort of price the E-motion would command, he said about 300,000 Chinese yuan, which is about one third of the price of the Tesla Model S 90D in China.

In Australia, where the Tesla Model S 90D retails for $162,116 driveaway, a one-third pricetag would be about $54,000.

“We will be much, much cheaper than Tesla,” he said.

MG Motors Australia cautioned that, assuming a RHD version was placed in production, the Australian price would be unlikely to be that cheap.

Asked by journalists about the batteries in the E-motion, Mr Jingfeng said they were lithium-ion batteries sandwiched in a purpose-designed floor platform, similar to that of Tesla.

However, he then added that SAIC batteries would be a new generation with advanced technology for improved performance.

He declined to elaborate, saying only that other SAIC EVs would benefit from these technologies in future.

Mr Jingfeng said one of SAIC’s upcoming Roewe (the former British Rover) EVs would be an SUV.

SAIC has already announced it is about to produce the all-electric Roewe RX5 large SUV, as well as an all-electric version of the new Roewe i6 sedan that to date has been made in petrol-electric hybrid form. Neither of these cars is expected in Australia.

SAIC Passenger Car product portfolio planning director Zhang Liang said there would be an MG version of the SUV EV.

Mr Liang said SAIC had more than 10 new-energy vehicles planned, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs.

Of the 3752 engineers working on new products at SAIC in Shanghai, 350 are toiling on “new energy technologies”, while a further 240 researchers are working in the Advanced Technology Research Department on intelligent driving systems and fuel-cell technologies.

Designers working on the E-motion sports coupe’s design are said to have drawn inspiration from MG sportscars of yore, including 1955’s MGA.

Mr Jingfeng described its look as European mainstream with British essence.

At the front, the grille is formed by LEDs in pinpoints of light, while small flaps over the top of the LED headlamps retract to reveal the high-beam units.

The quilted leather trim of the cabin was said to have been designed with the help of European clothing and accessories manufacturer Hermes.

It is unclear if the butterfly doors raised electrically would remain in a production version, but SAIC claims they are a first for a Chinese-designed vehicle.

While all previous production MGs in the Chinese ownership era since 2005 have been penned in the UK studio at Longbridge, this car has come from SAIC’s burgeoning Shanghai operation – perhaps a sign of the increasing Chinese-ification of the brand.

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