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Exclusive: MG Australia eyes rebadged Roewe

Roving: A Chinese-built Roewe model might surface in Australia, but under MG badges as part of the new-look line-up. Roewe is the Chinese name for former British brand Rover.

New factory-owned MG distributor considers a Roewe as part of MG line up here

MG logo20 Oct 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

THE born-again MG operation in Australia will consider adding a model from Chinese sister brand Roewe to flesh out the former British brand’s range Down Under.

Although MG’s parent company, SAIC Motor Corporation, has no plans to introduce the Roewe brand to Australia, it has indicated that it is considering at least one Roewe car for possible rebadging as an MG.

SAIC’s new Australian subsidiary, SAIC Motor Australia Pty Ltd, is set to take back the Australian distribution rights for MG in Australia from January 1, after an aborted attempt by independent importer Australia Longwell Motor to establish an MG beachhead from a single dealership in Sydney.

According to the newly appointed CEO for SAIC’s MG Australia operation, Jason Pecotic, MG will introduce three models in the first year of the new arrangement, starting with the newly facelifted mid-sized MG6 and MG3 light hatchback at the scheduled relaunch in March.

These will be followed in the third quarter by MG’s first SUV, the mid-sized GS.

But Mr Pecotic disclosed to GoAuto that a Roewe vehicle was also on the radar for Australia, albeit in the early stages of consideration.

He declined to elaborate on the model and target production date for Australia, saying it was only a proposal at this stage.

Roewe – formerly the one-time British brand Rover – has been in Chinese hands for about a decade. Several Roewe models sold in China are based on recycled Rover vehicles such as the Rover 75 (Roewe 750), although SAIC increasingly is forging its own path with fresh models.

The latest Roewe vehicle to emerge in China is the mid-sized Roewe 360 which is about to go on sale in the world’s biggest motor market.

Armed with a choice of two GM-sourced four-cylinder engines – including the same 114kW 1.4-litre turbo used in the Chinese-market Chevrolet Cruze – the 360 is said to be the first all-new Roewe vehicle for three years.

Should that be considered by MG Australia for launch here, it could fit between the MG3 and MG6.

Although MG is now considered a Chinese brand after being scooped up by Chinese investors when the British manufacturer folded in 2005, its cars are still developed in the United Kingdom at MG’s traditional home of Longbridge, in the English Midlands.

Thailand, where SAIC established a plant last year, also looms large in MG plans for Australia.

The MG6 sold in Australia will be shipped from SAIC’s plant in Thailand, while the MG GS is also expected to come from there.

The little MG3 will be manufactured in China, at least initially.

Mr Pecotic said exchange rates between Australia and Thailand, and Australia and China, would have a bearing on vehicle sourcing for the Australian operation.

Australia is set to get the same right-hand spec MG vehicles as the UK, making compliance and other factors relatively easy to accommodate.

In the UK, the MG6 is sold in liftback hatch and sedan body styles with a choice of 1.8-litre petrol and 1.9-litre diesel engines.

MG Australia is expected to skip the manual-only diesel and opt for the petrol with an automatic transmission as standard equipment.

The smaller MG3 is sold in the UK with a 1.5-litre petrol engine married to a five-speed manual transmission – the spec that can be expected here at launch in March too.

In some markets, the vehicle is offered with a clunky automated gearbox, but MG Australia has decided to wait for a proper automatic transmission as an alternative to the manual shifter, even though that is not expected before the first quarter of 2017.

The newest MG, the GS SUV, will go on sale in Australia in the third quarter of 2016. It will have a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines – a 1.5-litre and a flagship 2.0-litre.

Pricing and final specifications will be released closer to launch, along with warranty details.

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