Local Takeaway

It’s the weekend, and you’re tired. Why not skip the cooking tonight and order in something decadent and a little, oily?

Nothing wrong with the MG6’s looks. (c) crazy4cars

There is something terribly poignant about the end of days at Longbridge. Having put its troubled past behind, under new ownership and seemingly looking to the future, it all came crashing down, thanks (in part at least) to the hubris and cynicism of its domestic overlords.

Following the firesale of MG Rover’s assets and intellectual property, the first fruit would be Nanjing Automotive’s Roewe 750, a hastily restyled version of the existing Rover 75 saloon. Also planned was a smaller car based upon the RDX60 programme, which had been in development prior to MG Rover’s demise. Another beneficiary of Longbridge’s assets was fellow-Chinese carmaker, SAIC Motor, who subsequently absorbed Nanjing Auto and quickly brought the Roewe 550 to market, engaging specialists in the UK to speed up the process.

But SAIC had plans to establish a toehold in the European market using the once-storied MG brand. Derived from the Roewe 550 and officially introduced in November 2009 at the Guangzhou motor show, the MG6 was a spacious fastback in the Skoda Octavia mould, although a better balanced three volume saloon, called Magnette would also be offered.

With some residual Rover 75 hardware on board (the front subframe is allegedly similar, as was the N-series engine, which was derived from Rover’s ill-fated K-series), and with a chassis developed on British roads, hopes were high for success in old Blighty.

It would be another two years before the MG6 went on sale in the UK and while the domestic press were keen to give it the benefit of the doubt, they couldn’t quite mask their mild distaste (or snobbery if you prefer). Reviewers were impressed by its chassis and overall package, but just about everyone criticised its powertrain and cited the lacklustre perceived quality of its interior plastics. Good, but not quite good enough being the prevailing judgement.

But there is always one brave iconoclast who refuses to pander to prevailing orthodoxies. Step forward, one Quentin Willson, late of BBC Television’s Top Gear programme, he of the slicked back hair and somewhat contrived, unctuous tones. Channelling another far more successful TV creation, Willson invites us to an exclusive tour of the new MG in characteristic toe-curling fashion. (You can find it on YouTube, should you feel impelled). Indeed, following my initial viewing, not only did the MG clearly require a wash, so did your squirming correspondent here.

It speaks volumes on the part of SAIC UK’s marketers in their choice of brand spokesman, although how many others were likely to have said no before their gaze fell upon Mr. Willson’s name can only be guessed at.

The MG6 wasn’t a particularly bad car, and probably deserved a kinder fate than the one it received in the end, bowing out ignominiously in 2016. But I might kindly suggest that it deserved a better brand champion, even if his unintentional Alan Partridge impression is, it must be said, peerless.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Local Takeaway”

  1. Autotrader has 38 of these on sale today. Top of the range 63 plate in the same colour as Quentin swoons over for £2500 with 71k. The highest price is £8500 for a 2016 diesel model with under 14k on the clock. Seller informs us it has a seven year warranty; by who?
    I vaguely remember browsing the MG site when the 6 appeared, thinking it ok to look at. Haven’t seen one on the road for ages. Nor much of QW, either

    1. He’s regularly featured in (Thoroughbred &) Classic Cars magazine, advising which cars are ‘good investments’ each and every month.

      The overhaul that introduced QW turned a decent vintage car magazine into an utterly superfluous ‘collectors’ and investors” kind of publication. I chose not to renew my subscription as a consequence – though I was clearly in a minority, as I still spot Mr Willson’s slick grin whenever I browse through the magazine at some airport.

  2. QW also did a lot of corporate work for Mercedes-Benz. You can find his and others’ work on ‘ROVR’ on YouTube.

    For the full Partridge, you really need old pros like Frank Bough.

    1. Isn’t this Sir Jackie Stewart driving the car and being welcomed by e fellow Scot?

      Leading (or, rather, best selling) German car magazine ‘suto motor und sport’ started their TV channel in the Eighties. They had Paul Frère as a test driver and it didn’t work. Despite of Mr. Frère being in extremely good command of the German language viewers didn’t like his strictly active driver/engineering point of view. He was replaced by clowns like Jeremy Clarkson.
      I nevertheless like Clarkson’s introduction of Sabine Schmitz (from 4:40)

  3. The MG6 misadventure is being paralleled by the progress – or lack of it – of Ghoul Borgward in Germany.

    Neither business seemed to understand that a revived name, however revered, is not the same as a trusted brand. Nor did they appreciate the value of dealer networks, or the notion that a ‘challenger’ brand has to sell at a discount to established competitors. Both tried to trade on European design and supposed local manufacture; MG with their CKD operation at Longbridge, Borgward AG with their proposed production facility at Bremen GVZ, which came to naught.

    The MG6 was offered at £17K, with no prospect of a discount, and with an unimpressive warranty. At the time, any Vauxhall dealer in the land would happily see you leaving with a new Insignia for that sum.

    It wasn’t an auspicious beginning, but to most MG watchers’ amazement the UK business has pulled through astonishingly well by positioning itself as a low-cost Chinese challenger brand with the MG3 and ZS. Neither are class leaders, but the prices are low enough to generate 10,000 annual sales, and rising, and retain a growing dealer network of 100+ outlets.

    Current success is no guarantee of a long term future – remember Daewoo and Proton? However MG has shown a way ahead – abandon pretension and offer value.

    As for Ghoul Borgward, I doubt if the people in Stuttgart have even noticed MG’s success – I’m hearing only bad news.

  4. I wonder if the MG name was actually a significant handicap in the UK? There was a lot of adverse comment about besmirching a storied British marque with such a prosaic car, which conveniently overlooked how BMC and BL had done just the same, with badge-engineered versions of the Farina saloon and 1100/1300, for example. In any event, had it been positioned clearly as a budget offering and carried, say, the Morris name, it might have done rather better. MG Motor realised its mistake and cut the price by £3k in 2015 when if facelifted the car, but it was too late to save it.

    Incidentally, the facelift was a good effort and largely corrected the car’s rather high-tailed look by enlarging the rear light clusters and modifying the bumper. Here are the before and after photos:

  5. The MG6 was forced out by its diesel engine’s non-compliance with Euro6 standards, the K-series petrol descendant having already been discontinued. As such, the £8500 for the 2016 car mentioned in the main article may not be that much below what the original buyer paid for it! The facelift rear end may have looked better-resolved, but I’d have preferred to have a rear window-wiper.

    As with Willson, the brand is still with us, but in both cases they are further from the mainstream than they once were. Willson appears in advertising for an aftermarket warranty provider, while MG has gained relatively positive reviews for the ZS EV. The non-EU range seems to be a lot larger, including a rebranded Maxus pick-up called MG Extender in Thailand. Given the popularity of such vehicles, perhaps a candidate to expand the range – or that of LDV?

    This curiosity is linked-to from the LDV homepage:

    MG’s “brand ambassador” in India is Benedict Cumberbatch, recruited for an SUV called Hector:
    (for those who like to analyse press releases, the above article is worth a read)
    Cumberbatch is talking to Hector in its adverts:

    It must have worked – Hector is sold out for 2019, with 21000 orders, and production is being increased to 3000 a month! Which beats UK/Europe MG sales for the last four years. http://carsalesbase.com/european-car-sales-data/saic-mg/

  6. They were daft calling these cars MGs as it leaves the cars wide open to miserable people like me instantly delivering a negative ‘it’s not an MG is it!’ statement. Priced more realistically and with better warranties they might have stood a chance. They are now having more success with SUV-alike things that annoyingly look like faux-Mazdas. Personally, I preferred the previous look, with the MG3 having a kind of neo-Punto look about it.

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