While it’s still some way from making waves that’ll be felt in Paris, Cologne, Wolfsburg and Turin, MG Motor UK Ltd – the modern inheritor of Herbert Austin’s once-great Longbridge plant – has been growing fast since it emerged from the chrysalis of not one but two apparent Far Eastern takeover bids five years ago.
Now Chinese-owned but British-crewed and operated, with more than 500 staff at the Birmingham facility where it completes final assembly from knockdown kits shipped from SAIC in China, MG Motors is one of the greatest self-proclaimed success stories of modern manufacturing in Britain.
There are questions about exactly how ‘British’ that story is, never mind how successful, but the business model’s potential stares you in the face.
Buy part-built cars at cost price in Chinese yuan, finish them in Britain to the right standard, sell them at a healthy profit but cheaply enough to undercut your rivals and then watch the competition fail to keep up.
If you were setting up a truly global and sustainable volume-selling car-making business in 2016, there’s a good chance that you might want it to operate exactly like this.
It’s been a testing business model to perfect, though. The market has been so sceptical about the MG 6 family hatchback that it has been axed in the UK, but the launch of the MG 3 supermini in 2013 has taken annual sales volume well into four figures, topping 3000 units last year.
Now a further step-change in fortunes looks likely as MG introduces another of its attractive and attractively priced ‘Chinese takeaways’ – this time into the booming crossover segment.
Meet the MG GS – a family-sized soft-roader designed in Birmingham, launched in China last year, refined in the UK and available to order from less than £15,000.