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MG to start RHD switch to Thailand with GS
GS medium SUV to become the first Thai-built MG for Australia in 2018
20 Apr 2017
By RON HAMMERTON in SHANGHAI
MG MOTOR’S mid-sized GS SUV will become the former British brand’s first right-hand-drive vehicle to make the production switch from China to Thailand for Australian customers next year.
The move was confirmed to GoAuto by a senior executive of MG parent company SAIC Motor in Shanghai where the company is showcasing new models, including the all-electric E-motion sports coupe, at the Shanghai motor show.
The GS is set to be followed by other models for right-hand-drive markets from a newly expanded SAIC joint-venture factory in Thailand’s Rayong car-making precinct outside Bangkok.
The new production line – joining an existing line that turns out MG vehicles for the ASEAN market - is scheduled to start work late this year, although the SAIC executive could not say when production of the GS for Australia would start.
GoAutgo understands it will be in the first half of 2018, when production has been bedded down.
MG Motor Australia has only just launched the GS in Australia, although it has been on sale in other markets, including China and the Middle East, for a couple of years.
The company is expected to take the opportunity of the factory switch to give the GS an update, although an all-new model is due in 2019.
Ultimately, the factory will build several MG models for right-hand-drive markets, also including the UK and New Zealand..
Next cab off the Thai RHD rank is expected to be the smallest car in the MG range, the MG3 light hatch, which is also due for a facelift in the next year or so.
The MG3 is expected to get engine tweaks to generate a little more power and better fuel economy, as well as a much-needed automatic transmission as an alternative to the current manual gearbox.
An all-new mid-sized MG6 – to replace the ageing first-generation vehicle that pioneered the return of MG to Australia under the ill-fated Longwell Motor saga in 2013 – could be next for Thai production after it hits global markets in late 2019.
While Thailand will become a hub for RHD MG products for global markets, various models, including the new ZS small SUV due in Australia in October this year, will continued to be supplied by SAIC’s Chinese factories.
The Thai production expansion will double SAIC’s production capacity in that country and take pressure from its factories in China where sales of its home-brand products have doubled in the past year.
The Thai production base is a joint venture with Thai company Charoen Pokphand Group.
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