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Thai-made MGs for Australia

Thai one on: The MG6 is likely to be one of the British-engineered MG range built in Thailand for regional markets, including Australia.

Chinese giant SAIC signs deal for Thai production of right-hand-drive MG cars

5 Dec 2012

BRITISH-designed cars made in Thailand by a Chinese company are expected to land in Australia as soon as 2014 after China’s biggest motor company, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), this week signed a joint venture agreement to build MG cars in the Southeast Asian country.

Australia has been named as a key export market for the right-hand drive MG range to be manufactured at a plant operated jointly by SAIC Motor and Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group).

The new partners announced the deal in Bangkok, with SAIC taking a controlling 51 per cent and CP Group the remainder.

The factory is expected to be completed by 2014 with an initial capacity of 50,000 cars a year, eventually growing to 200,000.

The Australian distributor for MG Cars is yet to be announced, but GoAuto understands that British-owned Inchcape – importer of Subaru cars in Australia – has been mentioned in dispatches.

Inchcape group communications director Ken Lee said from London: “We don’t comment on media speculation.”

The famous British marque was acquired by SAIC when it absorbed Chinese rival Nanjing Automobile Group that had bought up the remnants of the dying MG Rover company in 2005.

49 center imageFrom top: MG3 MG5 MG6.

SAIC set about rebuilding the brand, using MG’s British design and engineering team in Birmingham to design fresh models such as the MG6 mid-sized sedan, MG5 small car and MG3 light car.

These models are all built in China, with some packs of parts shipped to the UK for assembly for Britain where MG is raising the profile of the MG6 by racing it in the British touring car series.

News of the Thai enterprise surfaced in May this year when The Bangkok Post quoted CP Group chairman Thanakorn Seriburi as saying his company and SAIC were working on a feasibility study for a joint-venture factory to make at least 50,000 cars a year in Thailand.

Mr Seriburi said the study should be completed by the fourth quarter of this year.

CP Group – a sprawling company that makes products as diverse as agricultural machinery and pet food – already has a joint venture with SAIC, making more than a million motorcycles a year in China under the Dayang brand.

Those motorcycles might also be in contention for Thai production, according to The Bangkok Post.

The Thai-built cars are expected to be shipped to right-hand drive markets around region, including New Zealand where importer British Motor Distributors has the MG sales rights.

The models to be made at the Thai plant are yet to be revealed, but they should have few problems meeting Australia’s crash safety and emissions regulations.

The first MG model under the new regime, the MG6, stunned observers in Europe when it scored a creditable four stars in the European NCAP crash test program – above some western cars.

The Thai cars can also be imported duty free under Australia’s free-trade agreement with that country.

Ultimately, SAIC plans to expand the range beyond the current three models. It showed a compact crossover vehicle, the Icon, at the Beijing motor show earlier this year.

State-owned SAIC is the major manufacturing partner of both General Motors and Volkswagen in China, collectively building more than four million vehicles a year.

Those vehicles include LDV vans that just last week received Australian Design Rule approval in readiness for the brand’s local launch in January.

LDV is also a former British marque – Leyland DAF Vehicles – that was snapped up by SAIC in the global financial crisis and shipped lock, stock and barrel to China.

SAIC is reportedly using its UK and Hong Kong subsidiaries to facilitate the Thai deal, rather than its Shanghai-based holding company whose major shareholder is the Communist Party controlled state.

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