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Exclusive: MG to reboot on October 1

Launch 2.0: MG’s mid-sized MG6 will be one of three models wearing the famous British badge when the stuttering launch of the brand in Australia finally kicks into gear in October.

Ten MG dealers appointed as China’s SAIC gets set to relaunch its British brand

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MG logo19 Jul 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

AFTER a false start and subsequent delays, the Chinese-produced, British-developed MG range of vehicles is finally set for a proper launch with a three-vehicle range in Australia on October 1.

The date and rollout plans have been confirmed to the freshly appointed national dealer network of 10 retailers by MG’s factory-owned distributor in Australia, SAIC Motor Australia, which GoAuto understands is about to move into its new permanent headquarters in Woolloomooloo, Sydney.

SAIC – China’s biggest motor company producing more than six million vehicles a year – took back the Australian distribution rights from its initial appointee, Longwell Motor, on January 1 this year after the Chinese-owned retailer fumbled the launch of the MG6 in this market in 2013, selling just a handful of cars and creating just one dealership, in Sydney’s Parramatta Road, at Petersham.

Shanghai-based SAIC had hoped to re-launch the brand under the MG Australia flag about March, but the kick-off was delayed by organisational issues, including finding homes for 388 unsold MG6 mid-sized sedans and hatches that have been sitting on grass in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for more than two years.

SAIC inherited the cars under the deal with Longwell, and GoAuto understands that the entire stock has now been taken up by dealers down the eastern seaboard for sale as used vehicles, but with a full three-year factory warranty.

At least some of the dealers handling the old stock are understood to have signed on as new MG outlets in a recruitment drive by MG Australia CEO Jason Pecotic – a former managing director of Chinese vehicle importer in Australia, WMC which is now owned by the giant AHG retail group.

Among the dealers advertising MGs are Brisbane’s Norris Motor Group – a Nissan and Hyundai dealer – and two dealers with Toyota franchises, in Canterbury, NSW, and Launceston, Tasmania.

A check of used vehicle sales websites today turned up more than 60 1.8-litre petrol MG6s being offered at prices ranging from $11,888 to $15,990 – about half the asking price when the cars were first offered in Australia up to three years ago.

Some of the cars have as few as 2km on them, although others have up to 170km. All have revised child seat tether points to comply with Australian Design Rules (ADRs), which changed while the cars were stuck in limbo, rendering them non-compliant.

All are equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox – the only transmission option at the time these cars were imported from China. A six-speed automatic is expected to be added when fresh stock of the facelifted version arrives for launch 2.0.

Apart from the revised MG6, the MG range will include the entry-level MG3 light hatch and a mid-sized SUV, the GS. While the MG3 gets a normally aspirated petrol 1.5-litre engine developing 78kW, the latter will be armed with a 122kW turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Although a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine is the MG6 powerplant of choice in the United Kingdom – MG’s most established market – the Australian operation is expected to stick with the 1.8-litre petrol engine.

The iconic British MG (Morris Garages) sportscar operation has been in Chinese hands since 2005 when it went into receivership and was snapped up Chinese car manufacturer Nanjing Auto, along with fellow British brand Rover.

The brands came to SAIC when it took over Nanjing and elected to make 90-year-old MG one of its key own-brand planks.

Despite Chinese management of MG, the design and engineering functions are still done at MG’s traditional home at Longbridge, in the English Midlands.

Apart from MG and Rover – rebranded Roewe for China – SAIC also owns the former British LDV van operation.

LDV’s vans are handled in Australia by independent importer Ateco Automotive, which SAIC says will keep the rights.

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