An interesting morning at Longbridge, where MG took the covers off its MG6 saloon (not exactly a first look, but good to see it anyway), unveiled a new logo and, at last, allowed us into the production facility to see the new assembly line.
There wasn’t actually anything being built, you understand. That comes on stream in a few weeks. But there were enough signs of preparation to convince me that at some point in the relatively near future, fully assembled MGs are going to trundle out of Longbridge once more. Last June, when I visited the same site for the launch of the European design centre, I wasn’t so sure.
Up close, the MG6 looks set to offer a big car for its price point. It’s larger than a Golf or Focus, and has a little more space in the rear. But even the second generation of cabin (the first was scorned during buyer clinics, apparently) is a notch behind VW’s in terms of tactile quality.
What’s more encouraging is how realistic expectations seem to be. Just 40 people are employed on the production line, and between them they could build 5000 cars per year (when I say ‘build’, I mean ‘assemble’ - the cars are 80 per cent finished when they arrive in the UK from China).
But the sales target for the first 12 months of production is less than half of that production figure. And once-stated plans to rush in sales in Continental Europe have gone too; “There’s no point going there until we have a diesel,” said one MG source, “and we won’t have that until summer 2012, so it’ll be Q3 or Q4 next year.”
It sounds low-key, doesn’t it? But providing parent firm SAIC keeps faith, and is patient with the (re)building process, then it could work.
One thing’s for sure: I find the current, modest approach a lot more reassuring than the grand promises of old.