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MG confirms Corolla rival and new MG6 flagship

Exciting: MG Motor Australia is excited about the prospect of a production model based on the E-Motion sportscar concept, but its positioning in the market is still to be determined.

Local MG strategy includes small car, new mid-sizer, sportscar, large SUV – and more

26 Nov 2019

ONE of the fastest-growing automotive brands in Australia, MG, expects continued strong sales growth over the next three years with an EV-compatible Corolla competitor and an all-new MG6 flagship spearheading its future model plans.


Speaking to GoAuto in Sydney last week at the launch of the all-new HS mid-size SUV – a model which should provide a significant boost to the brand’s local sales – MG Motor Australia chief executive officer Peter Ciao confirmed that a traditional small MG hatchback is in the pipeline, which senior MG personnel even refer to spiritually as their “Corolla”.


Mr Ciao said MG will have five core model lines in an ever-expanding network of MG showrooms across Australia within three years, and that they will not just be new SUVs which are now dominating the market.


As well as the HS (which replaces the slightly smaller GS), the local range includes the ZS compact crossover – to be upgraded next year, adding an all-electric variant – and the MG3 light hatchback, which also receives a minor update soon.


A sportscar based on the 2017 E-Motion coupe concept is also in the works, while the Australian subsidiary is working on the case to bring a mid-size utility to market – though not with the current Extender based on MG/SAIC stablemate LDV’s T60.


GoAuto understands that a large SUV previewed by the 2018 X-Motion concept is high on the agenda as well.


“Will we have an entry in the Corolla class? Yes we will, in 2022,” Mr Ciao said.


Development of this crucial image-building model still has a way to go before it enters one of the highest-volume segments in the market.


However, MG Motor Australia marketing and product director Danny Lenartic confirmed that the company is making a concerted effort to evolve MG’s Chinese-built and British-engineered portfolio moving forward.


“We will never be known as an SUV brand, that’s not the desire for the business,” Mr Lenartic said.


“But what we will be known for – what we’ll try and be – is a market mover. We’ll try and be first and we’ve already demonstrated that with the (forthcoming) ZS EV. We’re one of the most affordable electric vehicles in the country.


“There’s a plan … and the challenge to us to deliver as well. You can’t do that without careful consideration and having at least a two-, three-, four-year strategy that backs that up.


“Launching this dealership (Sydney City MG) was part of that equation, having that in the corner (an EV platform, mounted on the dealership wall) was part of that equation. So the line-up will reflect where the market’s moving. We hope to get it right.


“‘Corolla’ is definitely on the agenda. An EV version of that is on the agenda. Is it a GTI killer or is it a nice EV that can be driven quietly from A to B? That’s all under evaluation.”


Mr Lenartic agreed it could easily be both those things.


The Australian operation is also banking on the next-generation MG6, which Mr Ciao confirmed will be a flagship model with the performance and styling appeal to make an impact.


The current-generation MG6 is no longer on the local market.


“In 2023, we will launch our all-new MG6. We will base this model on our sporting heritage, it will be a sporty car,” he said, adding that it will also be affordable.


But it is the production version of MG’s all-electric E-Motion 2+2 coupe that will truly “shock” the public, so to speak, Mr Ciao said, out of “respect for this brand” – though not necessarily as its halo car.


“Just because MG is (originally) from sports, does not mean it will just stay in sports,” said Mr Ciao.


Mr Lenartic added: “The E-Motion excites us. That’s going through a few iterations and it’s again under evaluation. Is it our halo car or is it something else? It’s still yet to be determined.”


As for the MG Extender dual-cab ute, which is built in Thailand and shares most of its DNA with the LDV T60, Mr Ciao ruled out the current model coming to Australia but said it was a segment the company simply had to enter at some stage.


“For a company (SAIC) with so many brands, we just don’t want to repeat investment money,” he said.


But Mr Ciao emphasised that if MG really wanted to grow as a brand in this country, “we will have every model” – including a ute.


“We are researching that, how to do it,” he said. “We will find a solution and we will cover every segment, certainly. Pick-up is the number one segment in Australia – we must do it. But how?”


MG Motor said at its relaunch in 2016 that it was targeting 25,000 annual sales in Australia by 2025.


It has almost tripled its sales in a shrinking market this year, racking up 6740 units to the end of October compared to 2323 at the same point last year (+190%).


This is without the HS delivering any sales volume whatsoever.


Asked whether MG expects the HS to become the brand’s sales leader, Mr Lenartic said: “(The HS competes in) the largest segment, obviously, but it’s the most competitive as well. What the MG3 has done for us, and the ZS has done for us, you can’t ignore. The MG3, particularly, has hit a sweet spot for so many people, and it’s been so good to us.


“So suggesting that HS will overtake the MG3 … I think they’ll be neck and neck. And I think the ZS won’t be far behind. It’ll be the trio that really creates the growth for us and we love all our children equally!


“Right now we want to focus on bringing the MG into SUV, and really owning the HS in that market and making sure that we do a really good job there.


And obviously with the line-up coming for the rest of the year (2020) – EV product and so forth – I think we’ve got a really good story to tell.


“We will get to a time where … the growth will taper off because we can’t keep putting dealers on. But growth for us will still be aggressive. I never put numbers on it because, going from 600 to 3000 to 9000, if I had have said that three years ago you would’ve laughed at me, but we’re almost there.”


Mr Ciao is perhaps even more bullish about MG’s sales potential in this country.


“We will keep a very strong increase (heading into 2022), I’m very confident of this. But the number? I cannot reveal that. We’ve already discussed the number many times! Currently in Australia we’re number 20, but I think it will be a big jump.”


Mr Ciao also confirmed that MG’s Australian dealer network will continue its expansion, with the company targeting 55 outlets over the next year –  up from 47 today.


As it stands, MG in Australia currently ranks sixth in terms of global popularity (excluding China) behind the UK, South America, Thailand, India and the Middle East.

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