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MG plans SUV assault

Sports report: Again underlining that the modern sportscar is the SUV, MG is planning three sporty crossover vehicles, but no born-again MG B any time soon.

Two more SUVs under development by MG to join mid-sized GS in new range

MG logo10 Nov 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

CHINESE-OWNED MG Motor is planning a three-model SUV range to help drive expansion of the born-again British marque in western markets, including Australia where the brand is set for a renaissance from early next year.

Believed to be based on the same scalable front/all-wheel-drive SUV architecture that underpins the mid-sized MG GS SUV launched in China at the Shanghai motor show in April, two more crossover vehicles – a small sporty rival for the Nissan Juke and a larger family wagon – are said to be under development at MG’s Longbridge design and engineering centre in the English midlands.

All three are on the radar for the newly created SAIC Motor Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of SAIC Motor Corporation that has taken back distribution of its MG vehicles in Australia after an attempt by a Chinese-based independent distributor to establish the marque here since 2013.

While SAIC will relaunch MG in Australia with two passenger models – a facelifted mid-sized MG6 hatch and sedan range and MG3 light hatch – it is keen to ride the worldwide SUV popularity wave, starting with the Nissan Qashqai/Hyundai Tucson-sized MG GS in the third quarter of 2016.

SAIC officials – in Dubai for MG’s Middle Eastern launch at the Dubai motor show this week – are tight-lipped about the range rollout, but British journalists are certain it is underway.

The next market to get the MG makeover is Australia where SAIC is in the middle of decking out a new regional office in temporary premises in Sydney until its permanent office complex is ready to occupy.

First item on the agenda for the new Australian office is finding a home for 388 unsold MG6s that have been sitting on grass in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for up to three years. These vehicles were imported by the previous distributor, Australia Longwell Motor, which is relinquishing the franchise to SAIC.

As GoAuto reported exclusively in October, SAIC is attempting to clear the decks for a fresh start in March when new stocks of the facelifted MG6 and – for the first time – MG3 arrive from China to jump-start the brand.

SAIC will become the second Chinese car-making giant to target the SUV market in Australia, with Great Wall Motors currently launching its all-SUV Haval range.

Along with LDV vans – known as Maxus in most markets – MG has been chosen by SAIC as its export brand, riding on the residual brand recognition of the historic Morris Garages car-maker which it acquired after MG Rover went belly up in 2005.

Clearly, SAIC sees more sales upside in SUVs than sportcars. Right now, MG appears to have no drop-top two-seater due any time soon, which will disappoint traditional fans of the company once famous for affordable sportscars such as the MG TC and MG B.

SAIC – China’s biggest motor company with powerful partners in General Motors and Volkswagen – is counting on SUVs to give MG real sales traction, not only in China and Australia but also in other markets such as Europe and New Zealand.

The GS, which is set to be launched in the UK in the second quarter of 2016, will come with a choice of sporty petrol turbocharged four-cylinder engines – a 124kW/250Nm 1.5-litre developed in conjunction with partner GM, and a bigger, more powerful 2.0-litre unit producing 162kW/350Nm.

MG Australia CEO Jason Pecotic – the former managing director of independent Chinese vehicle importer WMC – said his company had taken the decision to launch the GS only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

He said the same call had been made on the MG6, which will be powered by a 118kW/215Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

“We have decided to go with automatic across the range wherever possible,” he said. “We will have to launch the MG3 in manual, because a new automatic is still under development by SAIC for that, but we will introduce the automatic version of that as soon as we can when it is available in 2017.”

MG Australia will also eschew the diesel engines offered with MGs sold in the UK, at least in the small-to-medium models announced to date.

Although SAIC has a factory in Thailand, building the MG6, MG5 and MG3 in a joint venture with Thai company CP Group, initial batches of MG6 and MG3 for Australia are likely to both come from China.

As GoAuto has reported, MG Australia is also looking at extending its passenger car range by rebadging new-generation vehicles from MG’s Chinese sister brand Roewe – the one-time Rover of Britain until the Chinese takeover.

This could expand the MG range in Australia out to at least six models.

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