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MG kicks off Aussie assault

Best of 3: The MG3 will be the second model to go on sale in Australia when it arrives in local showrooms in May next year.

First local MG dealership opens with dealer and model expansion on the horizon

MG logo13 Nov 2013

By TIM NICHOLSON

MG Motor Australia has officially opened the first of a number of planned Australian retail outlets, with a showroom at its Petersham, Sydney head office now up-and-running.

The formerly British brand, which is now owned by China’s largest vehicle manufacturer SAIC, commenced its return to local shores in April this year under distributor Australia Longwell Motor (ALM).

In the interim, ALM says it has been sorting out what it calls a host of details in order to get plans for its local network in place. The distributor has long experience selling the likes of Volkswagen and Audi products in China, but no experience selling cars in Australia.

Its first vehicle, as reported, is the MG6 sedan and hatchback, a turbocharged Holden Cruze-sized competitor priced between $22,990 and $27,990 plus on-road costs.

The MG3 light-car and a small SUV will follow, although the former has been delayed until mid-2014. An MG4 small hatchback is on the cards for 2015, at the same time as the SUV, while an open-topped roadster – the vehicle for which MG is best known – is in the works as well.

A concept version of the drop-top is currently in development.

The inaugural dealership will be helmed by retail sales manager Jason Potten. An imminent expansion will see dealerships open in Victoria and Queensland, as well as additional sites in New South Wales before the end of 2013.

MG Motor Australia general manager of sales and marketing Andrew Shaw told GoAuto he expects three to four new dealers to sign up prior to Christmas before a wider roll-out early next year.

“We realise that MG needs to build its place in the market so we are not thinking we want 100 dealers to start off,” he said. “Between places Cairns as far as Geelong we might need only as many as 18-20 dealers.”

Mr Shaw said the distributor was looking at an initial network of around 12 dealers, with most of those already short-listed and in final negotiations. He added that the potential dealers are keen for the brand to kick off in Australia.

“The dozen dealers we are going to end up signing quite quickly are coming to us wanting to get on with it. They are smart, they know their business, they have done their homework on what MG means over the next three to five years and they have thought this could be a good thing to take a punt on.”

MG Motor is initially focussing its efforts on the east coast of Australia, but Mr Shaw confirmed there are interested parties in both Western Australia and South Australia.

“We would clearly like to put as many dealers in place that could stand a good turnover per dealer as the brand itself grows. I think 20-24 down the east coast within 12 months is quite sustainable because by then we will almost be having the third car in the country and the number will start to pick up and it will sustain itself.” Mr Shaw put the delay between the relaunch of the brand months ago and the opening of the dealership this week down to the importer ensuring it had all of its operational needs covered before opening its doors to the public.

“Whilst we have owners that have huge experience in selling cars, selling cars in Australia is something you want to make sure you get 100 per cent right and there is quite a lot of detail, especially for a brand new importer,” Mr Shaw said.

“It has taken an inordinate amount of time to ensure we have everything we need in place so should anything go wrong, we are able to support it and I believe we are at that stage now.”

Mr Shaw said there had been strong interest in the brand since announcing its return to Australia and that interest was coming from buyers looking for “something different”.

“There are people that want to buy a functional four-door car for the cheapest price possible. That's not the market we are in. We can't compete with it anyway. We are producing something a little different.

“People see the MG badge and if they haven't owned an MG in the past themselves, they can see that it has some lineage and they like the idea of parking an MG on their front yard I guess.”

Mr Shaw said MG Motor was in no rush to push its new-model roll-out, insisting that a slow and steady approach was the best way forward for the fledgling car-maker, particularly in Australia's competitive new-car market.

“We have got no mad panic rush to grow the business in a very fast way as may have been done by other importers in the past. We just want to do it in surer way with partners.

“We are choosing the partners very carefully, ensuring that they are in the right locations with the right sites and we understand their business. They can't sell two cars a month, they need to have sustainability to sell a good number of cars,” he said.

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