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MG paces itself for long-term survival

New kid: MG will focus on SUVs as it looks to attract attention in Australia’s busy new-car market.

Sustainable growth with the right partners and products is MG’s key to longevity

MG logo31 Mar 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

CHINESE car-maker SAIC Motor will only have dealer representation on the eastern seaboard in Australia for the next few months, despite doubling its MG Motor model range from two to four with a pair of SUVs by year’s end.

MG re-launched in Australia in October with two models – the MG3 light hatch ad MG6 mid-sizer – last year under a factory-backed arrangement with its parent company, following a disastrous first attempt under private importer Longwell Motor in 2013.

Speaking at the launch of the company’s first SUV – the Nissan Qashqai-sized GS – near Melbourne this week, SAIC Motor Australia sales strategy senior manager, Peter Coorey, said that while negotiations were underway “in other states”, the company was keen to ensure it has the right people in the right places as it looks to expand.

“Melbourne representation is truly under way, and we want to make sure we have the right partners,” he told GoAuto. “Our focus first is the eastern seaboard.

From Queensland down. We will have representation in Melbourne, in time, and will bring more dealers on board to facilitate that growth.

“But we’re focused on having a good dealer experience and will build the brand from there. We’re looking for long-term vision and not just a short-term blip.

And we’re looking for business partners who have the same vision as we do.”

As we reported last month, SAIC is also believed to be investigating potential partners and sites in Adelaide, although this was met with a “no comment” from company officials.

Mr Coorey added that the Australian arm has the support of SAIC headquarters in Shanghai to build MG Motor’s sales and brand in a sustainable manner with the types of vehicles that Australian consumers want – namely compact and affordable SUVs such as the GS and the smaller ZS due by the end of the year.

“We have SAIC’s full support to do this right,” he said. “For MG to work we must make sure Australia gets the right products… so all our future model plans will take into consideration what the market wants.

“Four out of 10 cars sold are now SUVs, so for us that opens up an opportunity in the marketplace… and we see hatch and sedan buyers switching over to SUVs… so we want to capitalise on this SUV sales growth.

“And the ZS will come to market at the end of this year… so our future in Australia is backed up by a fully committed SAIC.”

Revealed at last November’s Guangzhou motor show , the ZS is about the size of the Mazda CX-3, and was named to lure the so-called ‘Generation Z’ age group (Millennials) to the fold.

Built on a variation of the same SAIC Scalable SUV architecture as the larger GS, the baby crossover is expected to be offered with a choice of two petrol units co-developed with General Motors – a 1.0-litre three-pot and 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo units.

Expect the crossover to undercut the $19,990 plus on-roads CX-3 Neo opener with a sub-$18,000 pricetag, to help give MG Motor a leg-up in the hotly contested segment.

MG also has high hopes for the GS, which has launched with special promotional driveaway pricing across the four-tiered range until the end of May.

While nobody would divulge volume forecasts, the $35,000 Essence X AWD flagship is expected to do well because of its combination of strong performance and long list of standard features.

“We aren’t talking at all about sales expectations,” Mr Coorey said. “But we feel that the 2.0-litre turbo Essence X AWD will be the main seller.”

An as-yet unconfirmed SUV/crossover based on the GS with up to seven seats is also rumoured to be in the pipeline, but that will not see the light of day in Australia for some time yet.

Finally, the arrival of the GS and ZS will not impact on the MG3 light hatch and MG6 mid-size sedan launched last October, with confirmation that they will continue to be sold alongside their SUV siblings.

“We’ve had a relatively strong start to the year with the MG3 and MG6,” Mr Coorey said.

“We sold just over 100 of those in the first two months of 2017… and that averages 50 per month, so we’re happy with that start,” he said.

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