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MG hits reset button in Australia

Expansion: This MG SUV concept will arrive in Australia next year in production guise, where it will join the current MG6 small car and upcoming MG3 light hatch.

Two more models and big dealer growth to headline Chinese MG rollout in Australia

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MG logo21 Jun 2013

THE Australian model range of the resurrected MG marque will grow to accommodate a Ford Fiesta-rivalling city hatchback around the end of this year and a small crossover SUV in mid-2014.

The Chinese-owned British brand’s local distributor this week hit the reset button on its fledgling operations and, in an exclusive interview with GoAuto, revealed plans to supply up to 24 dealer sites by year’s end.

It also detailed its future model program beyond the sole current offering – the MG6 small sedan and hatch – which will include other potentially volume-selling vehicles that will be crucial to its success in Australia.

The company staged a launch event in April at its head office and sole dealership at the old Rick Damelian prestige site in Sydney. But in the interim it went quiet, with no recorded sales, no presence on price lists, and no noticeable marketing.

However, newly appointed general manager of sales and marketing for MG Motor Australia, Andrew Shaw, said this week the company was poised to start a larger-than-expected retail rollout this month.

Central to its expansion will be the addition of the spunky MG3 hatch – unveiled at parent SAIC Motor’s European design centre in Birmingham last week and due in Australia late 2013 or early 2014 – and, for MG6, broadening the model range beyond the current petrol/manual combination with a dual-clutch automatic option and potentially a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel.

Around mid-2014 – “a huge year for us”, says Mr Shaw – a compact SUV previewed by the CS concept at April’s Shanghai motor show will also appear, giving the brand a contender in one of the fastest-growing market segments, lining up against the likes of the Hyundai ix35 and Nissan Dualis.

While research and development of all MG cars is conducted in the UK, Australian-bound cars are built at SAIC’s massive complex in China, which produces 11,000 cars per day.

Addressing public perceptions over Chinese cars, Mr Shaw said: “You must keep quality in the build if you’re building that number.

“There’s going to be some kind of stigma about a car being built in China in some parts of the world but I think Australia is over that and I think we’ve got a car here being built by a very large manufacturer that doesn’t want any quality issues at all.” The MG6 has launched with pricing in line with, or above, key rivals such as the Holden Cruze, with pricing between $23,000 and $28,000. But Mr Shaw says this is justified.

“It’s not a cheap car, it’s a quality car,” he said. “And so whilst the price is not in the cheapest end of the market, it’s because it’s not a cheap car, it’s a good quality car you can be proud of, and which will be around for a long time.” Behind MG Motor Australia is Chinese company Longwell Motor, which won the Australian contract amid stiff competition from rival distributors. The company has experience selling Audi and Volkswagen vehicles (with which SAIC has a domestic joint venture) and Peugeot in China.

Mr Shaw said the company had commissioned research to understand the competitive Australian market.

“SAIC are a multi-billion-dollar corporation that probably make decisions on business alone,” he said.

Mr Shaw, who joined the company this month, said 300 MG6s were on the ground in Australia, and that MG Motor Australia was well underway to open its second dealership, also in Sydney, in the coming weeks. The company is also believed to be seeking someone to oversee this dealer expansion.

The network will then move through the New South Wales’ Hunter region and down to Wollongong, with scope for as many as eight sites.

A strong tie-in with Queensland-based MG owners’ clubs will see the Sunshine state become the second state to offer the brand, with Victoria hot on its heels. Dealings are believed to be underway with franchise retail groups across the eastern seaboard.

Mr Shaw said a Western Australian dealer was already keen to join, but that MG Motor had to sort out the logistical issues of moving cars to the west before it expanded across the Nullarbor.

A handful of MG6s – which we drove this week, see the link at the bottom of the page – have already been sold, all to MG car clubs. Once the network is more established, the flagship Damelian site will become a technician training centre, and will remain as the company’s head office.

Mr Shaw said MG Motor Australia would use rapid servicing as a point of difference, and would instigate used-car buy-backs to help keep company resale rates high.

Mr Shaw has also continuing to work closely with MG owners’ clubs, including lending them cars, and would slowly develop advertising campaigns once sales ramped up and the company was in a better cashflow position.

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