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Beijing show: MG takes the SUV trail

Style Icon: The design of the funky MG Icon may find its way into future MG models.

MG Icon set to get bigger brother as Chinese-owned British marque looks at SUV range

24 Apr 2012


FOR car fans entranced with the prospect of a production MG mini crossover in the style of the Icon shown at the Beijing motor show this week, the man who oversaw its design has even bigger news: the Chinese-owned British marque is looking at “all sorts of SUVs at the moment”.

Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation (SAIC) global design director Anthony Williams-Kenny told GoAuto that no decision had been made on whether the retro-styled, light-size Icon – based on the same platform as the new MG3 light hatchback from the MG-Roewe partners – would go into production.

But at least one SUV is under development, and it seems certain that at least some of the design elements of the three-door SUV will appear in future vehicles from MG, which was bought by the Chinese colossus along with the remnants of Rover when the UK motor industry was on its knees.

MG design and engineering is still done (along with some assembly of right-hand-drive MG6s for the UK) at MG’s traditional base at Longbridge in the UK, while most of the manufacturing is now down in China by SAIC – China’s biggest car-maker.

The MG line-up, which currently consists of the light MG3, small MG5 and mid-size MG6 passenger cars, is almost certain to land in Australian showrooms sometime in the next two years, with at least two independent importers putting their hand up for the Australian distribution rights.

Mr Williams-Kenny said the MG Icon concept had turned into an internet phenomenon, generating 40 times the internet hits as last year’s Beijing show debutante, the MG5.

“You would not believe the number of people who have come up and said ‘my first car was an MGB’ or ‘my brother owned an MGB’,” said Mr Williams-Kenny, who apologetically admitted his first car was an Astra.

He said the Icon drew on the traditional MG design strengths – in particular the MGB and MGA – but in a modern car design “to give the customer something different here in China and globally”.

49 center imageHe said that, while the 1960s MGB influence was obvious in the front and rear design, the side view revealed a line used in his particular favourite old MG, the 1950s MGA, with its high arch over the rear wheel.

“The roof graphic is very direct – we have it on the MG3, so it is used to give the roof a very coupe line, very SUV in its style,” he said.

Mr Williams-Kenny said the design was “representative of my thought process at the moment”.

“Some of (the design) might find its way into the design language of other (MG) vehicles. We are doing lots and lots of vehicles at the moment.

“We are trying to do a design language that can be applied to many vehicles.”

Mr Williams-Kenny said it was too early to say if the MG Icon would go into production, but “I hope so” – and he did not rule out a convertible version.

However, he revealed that he and his British-based design team were developing an SUV that is larger than the Icon.

“This (the Icon) is developed on the MG3 platform, which is a global platform,” he said. “There is no decision as to whether it will go into production or not at the moment.

“We are working on an SUV, larger than this one. We are looking at various types of SUV products.

“We also have a Roewe SUV as well, the W5, which is a different platform.”

The Roewe W5, which was launched at Auto China a year ago in Shanghai, is based on the SsangYong Kyron.

SAIC owned SsangYong before walking away from the troubled Korean company, which is now in the hands of Indian vehicle manufacturer Mahindra and Mahindra.

This week at Beijing, Roewe showed a V6 3.2-litre version of the W5 badged as a National Geographic special, after the iconic American magazine.

As well as producing MG and Roewe cars – the latter so named because SAIC could not use the Rover name owned firstly by BMW through its Land Rover ownership and now Tata Motors – SAIC is the biggest Chinese partner of the two biggest foreign car-makers in China, General Motors and Volkswagen.

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