China-owned, British-branded marque outsold Skoda, Jeep, Peugeot and Mini in January.
MG may have a hallowed name, but it hasn’t really been relevant to Australians for a very long time, since it was a purveyor of iconic British drop-tops.
That appears to be changing, however, with the company making some serious inroads thanks in large part to the ZS small crossover SUV.
Take January 2019, a month in which it sold 503 cars, up 10-fold over the same month in 2018. For context, that means it outsold more established marques like Land Rover (458), Volvo (431), Skoda (408), Jeep (375), Mini (328) and Peugeot/Citroen (185 combined).
This was no outlier, really. In 2018 MG sold an impressive 3007 vehicles for the year, up 400 per cent. It beat Peugeot (2838) and Fiat (2412), and came pretty close to knocking off fellow formerly-British-brand Mini (3590).
Pictured: MG ZS
By far its leading model is its most modern. The ZS crossover that rivals the Mazda CX-3 managed 1692 sales in 2018, giving it 1.4 per cent ‘Small SUV’ market share. It outsold the Ford EcoSport, Jeep Compass , Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Suzuki S-Cross.
Its January 2019 numbers were 202 units, equating to an even higher 2.2 per cent market share.
The MG3 light car is also on a roll after a recent model upgrade. It managed a modest 564 units in 2018, but achieved 235 sales in January this year, giving it a greater market share (4 per cent) than the Suzuki Baleno, Renault Clio and Skoda Fabia combined.
Its other models aren’t doing as well. The ageing GS mid-sized SUV managed 333 sales in 2018 (and 42 in January 2019), for instance. However, there’s a brand new version arriving late this year to rival the Mazda CX-5, and on paper it looks the goods.
The dated MG6 Plus mid-sized car did 418 units last year and 24 last month. There’s a new generation version kicking around in China, but it’s unclear whether a right-hand drive version will appear. Given weak sales across the mid-size car segment, it seems a low priority.
Beyond this, an electric sports car that taps into the brand’s roots is on the agenda.
Moving past sales, the company’s Australian arm – which unlike sister company LDV (they share the same owner, the SAIC conglomerate) is a full subsidiary operation – is saying all the right things.
“Two years ago people were saying ‘are you going to be one the Chinese brands that don’t commit fully to the market?’" director of marketing Danny Lenartic told us recently.
Pictured: Current MG GS
"MG is here to stay, SAIC is committed to that. We have an aggressive growth strategy, we want to become a household brand again, and we definitely haven’t forgotten our roots…
“SAIC deliberately chose Australia to be its test market for a factory owned sales distribution business, so we are the first in the world, and therefore all eyes are definitely on us.
“We are definitely the test market. [We are] extremely competitive and very mature, so let’s test and evolve, and be the focus of branching out to North America and others."
Let's also not forget that SAIC has opened a new design studio in London, dubbed 'SAIC Design Advanced London'.
Pictured: New MG GS
There are currently four Chinese car companies that sell their products in Australia and contribute their sales figures to the VFACTS database overseen by the industry peak body, the FCAI. These are LDV (233 sales in January), MG (503), Haval (37) and Great Wall (71).
There's a way to go, of course. There were 27,963 Japanese imports sold in the same month, 21,136 from Thailand, 11,491 from Korea and 5880 from Germany.
|Brand||Jan 2019 sales|