MG Motor has started work on an all-new front-engined, rear-drive open-top sports car to replace the TF.
Development is at a very early stage and has lower priority than the company’s plans to introduce both the new MG6 and a new supermini to Longbridge. But the firm believes that a new sports car is essential to the long-term credibility of MG as a sporting brand. Though far from concrete, the plan is to introduce the model during 2014.
MG’s 200-strong, Longbridge-based engineering team has already investigated the feasibility of various driveline layouts for the new model, which would also be built at the UK site. Well placed insiders say that a front-engined, rear-drive layout is favoured, to provide the basis for an affordable sports car that would be a direct rival to the Mazda MX-5.
Driver entertainment is a priority, as is the sporting purity of the concept, which is why a front-engined, rear-drive layout is the most likely option.
A mid-engined drivetrain, as used on today’s TF, has been rejected because of the styling and packaging limitations it forces on the car, while customer perceptions about the limited abilities of front-wheel drive mean it has been discounted.
MG does not expect the 15-year-old TF to live much beyond the end of this year, although production of the model is expected to restart in April, following last autumn’s shutdown. That will leave the company without a sports car for at least three years while this new model is developed.
A major challenge will be finding the funds to pay for an all-new rear-drive platform, although SAIC has not ruled out trying to find a partner with which to share a platform. But ultimately, the birth of this new model will be heavily dependent on the success of MG’s attempts to re-establish itself in the UK and Europe with the MG6 and its smaller supermini sister.