SUV to help MG on the right road [Birmingham Post (England)]
(Birmingham Post (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THE MG brand has reached its 90th anniversary - and its current owners have pledged to keep the marque on the road with a new SUV and an electric vehicle.
The Birmingham carmaker has confirmed it will definitely produce the firm's first SUV when a version of its concept CS vehicle goes into production.
Although MG remains tightlipped about the timescale, it is likely to be towards the end of 2015.
The firm is more guarded about the future of its MG EV electric car but, with a version of it already up and running in China, it too is being tipped as a likely addition to the range.
The CS proved a sensation when it was revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show in 2013 and was hailed by many as the most exciting vehicle yet unveiled by the famous British marque, now enjoying a renaissance under Chinese owners SAIC. The CS is set to compete in the compact SUV sector, one of the fastest-growing areas in the global automotive world, against cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Mokka.
Chinese automotive powerhouse SAIC is expected to further invest heavily in MG, which has seen its sales figures soar this year in the wake of the launch of the MG3 in September last year.
The supermini joined the MG6 GT and Magnette, which went on sale in 2011, and its success means MG is currently the fastestgrowing automotive brand in the UK, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
Already this year, MG has sold double the number of cars in the UK than it sold in the whole of 2013.
It is also the first time the company has passed the 1,000 mark since it launched in 2008 and, since November 2013, 20 new MG dealerships have opened.
The CS has been created by a design team headed by MG's global design director Anthony Williams-Kenny.
Guy Jones, MG's sales and marketing manager, said: "We've con- firmed there will be a production vehicle - we will have an MG SUV and it will come to Europe "We can say there will be a car on the back of this but haven't announced vehicle details or timings. We will start to talk about the technology of the vehicle underneath it.
"The shape and size of the CS is roughly what the production vehicle will be and it will look like that."
Given the car-maker's successful year so far, Mr Jones believes the production version of the CS, can help take MG to the next level.
He said: "We started with one model and one powertrain and have added a second model.
"With an SUV as a third model line it would transform the business.
"SUVs are the mainstream for Nissan now. I started my career at Land Rover and we used to try and predict when the SUV bubble would burst but it seems that phenomenon has not only continued but escalated.
"In emerging markets that is what they want to drive in a city so an SUV will be a very important third model line and it will make the franchise very attractive "There is a global market for SUVs and it will have another massive step change within the business."
Martin Uhlarik, UK design director, said he believed MG's 90th anniversary offered an opportunity to take stock and use what has gone before as an inspiration going forward.
He said: "Looking in the past is important when you are moving forward. When you think of British design you think of the past, of tradition, craftsmanship and heritage. "Look at the skyline of London, it is a fusion of the past and the future coming together.
"We get our inspiration from products like the MBG and the MGA.
"The CS SUV concept has characterful MG design and a bold identity, a portfolio of elements that encapsulate an MG."
MG's next bold move could be to launch an electric vehicle and it is currently gauging reaction to see whether one would be welcomed in the marketplace.
Its MG EV is actually up and running and would be easy to put into production.
Developed in part by the UK technical centre at Longbridge, which employs 300 engineers and designers, a Roewe-badged version is already on sale in China, with about 500 cars already produced.
"EV is a product which is very much a technical showcase," said Mr Uhlarik. "From a brand point of view we want to see if the public would accept the concept of an electric MG.
"It's a show car but it is a real car, a working prototype so that makes it a lot more credible."
Mr Jones said it was something MG would not rush into for the sake of it, though he said the initial response to the idea had been positive.
He said: "The people who buy it wouldn't be traditional MG buyers but we are guardians of the brand.
"MG is a very powerful brand and can be in the future. Whatever we do with the brand has to be right for it."
Despite some of the exciting developments in the pipeline, Mr Jones also sounded a cautionary note when it comes to launching the kind of sportscars the brand was famous for.
Although there are many who would like to see a hot-hatch version of the MG3 competing against the likes of the Fort Fiesta ST, or the return of an iconic two-seater, he emphasised the firm had to tread carefully.
"We know from the racing side what a hero car will do for the brand," he said.
"We would love to see some higher performance units but we have to be realistic.
"We do want to have halo cars for the brand and there will be a time when we have but at the moment we have to cover the key areas of the market - that gives us a viable business."
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