After a 15-year absence, the MG brand is returning to the Mexican market. However, anyone who might recall the name from the days when British sports cars were a common sight on North American roads may be in for a surprise.
Following the breakup of the Rover Group, MG was sold to China’s auto giant SAIC in 2007, and although its vehicles are still developed in the UK, they are no longer manufactured there. Now, as Chinese domestic manufacturers start to push beyond the country’s borders, MG is returning to Europe and Mexico – raising the question of whether the U.S. might be next.
The MG brand was sold in Mexico from 2003 to 2005, along with other Rover products through MG Rover Mexico, an importer that is part of Grupo Galeria, from Monterrey Mexico. At the time, Rover was owned by the Phoenix Group, which, in turn, had purchased it from BMW.
Now MG returns to Mexico as an SAIC subsidiary with its own distribution network, which launches with six dealers this month and by the end of the year will have a total of 17 dealers in 11 Mexican states.
The relaunch will see it introduce an initial line-up of three models: one sedan and two crossovers. The MG5 sedan is 181 inches long, about the same as a Nissan Sentra. It’s powered by a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 113 hp and buyers get a choice of a manual 5-speed transmission or a CVT automatic.
The starting price is 245,900 pesos (about $11,544 considering an exchange rate of 21.30 pesos per $1) and its most well-equipped version costs 319,900 pesos (approximately $15,108).
The MG ZS is a “B” segment crossover which is 169 inches long and has a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 118 hp; it offers a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The base price is 285,900 pesos (about $13,422) and its top trim level sells for 378,900 pesos (about $17,788).
The third model MG will sell in Mexico is the HS crossover, which is 180 inches long. It is available in two trim levels, both with 4-cylinder turbo engines.
The most affordable version has a 1.5-liter turbo engine with 160 hp and a 7-speed automatic DCT and it sells for 488,900 pesos (approximately $22,953). The top trim level has a 2.0-liter turbo engine developing 226 hp and is mated to a 6-speed automatic DCT. Its retail price is 549,900 pesos (about $25,816).
The current line-up of a sedan and two crossovers differs greatly from the models last sold in Mexico in 2005. Back then the MG family consisted of the TF 2-seater mid-engine sports convertible and the Rover 75 based MG ZT Sports sedan as well as the Rover 25 based MG ZR hatchback, with either three or five doors.
Another difference is the brand positioning, previously MG was an entry level Premium Vehicle brand with a sporty flair. Now it will be a value-oriented brand.
MG vehicles will have the “Lucky 7” coverage consisting of a 7-year powertrain Warranty and Roadside Assistance. Also, the First seven maintenance intervals will be complimentary.
MG has the goal of achieving a 1.5% market share in Mexico during its first year and will gradually expand its line-up to include what, in Mexico, are known as MPVs, as well as new luxury models.
It’s unclear if the long-term plans might bring to Mexico the all-electric products MG is developing under SAIC. In June it signaled plans to begin selling the E-motion coupe in Britain. The two-door debuted at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show. The Mexican market has been slow to embrace electric vehicles, however, due to cost and the lack of a broad charging infrastructure.
With a foothold in the North American market the question is whether SAIC might try to relaunch the MG brand in the U.S., where it has been absent for more than 30 years? The company has been hinting of that possibility since at least 2014 and even raised the possibility of setting up a U.S. production site in Oklahoma, a plan that fell through.
With only a few exceptions, Chinese vehicles have not made it into the States – Volvo and Buick importing a small number of products from that country. But Chinese manufacturers are increasingly interested in export opportunities, according to Michael Dunne, founder of ZoZo Go consulting, and the possibility cannot be ruled out.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)