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Can MG Motor pave way for other Chinese car makers into India?

October 20, 2018, 05:57 PM IST by Venkat Desirazu
Can MG Motor pave way for other Chinese car makers into India?

MG Motor is coming to India next year with an SUV and then in 2020 with an electric vehicle. They are setting up a new facility in Halol, Gujarat (on the site of the old General Motors Plant) and have plans to open 100 touch points as well as a massive flagship showroom in Gurgaon. Their SUV will rival the likes of the Jeep Compass and Hyundai Tucson but (in their words) will bring far more to the table.  

It’s all good on paper. The big numbers, the showroom strategy, 75 per cent localisation for the first vehicle and, of course, the use of a top-down approach.

But what’s their real challenge?

Well, we believe that MG's biggest challenge for India will be to convince its future buyers that Chinese doesn’t necessarily equate to poorly built or low quality. You can’t blame the Indian car buyer for thinking so. The last Chinese-oriented manufacturer we had in India was General Motors whose final batting line-up included the Sail twins as well as the Enjoy MPV. Let’s be honest, they weren’t exactly going to be hitting any major runs for GM. We’ve looked at the whole GM India saga in a separate story and you can read about that here. 

An uphill task for MG then…

But it looks like they are quite ready to climb this mountain. We went to China to see what MG has to offer and came back quite impressed. Morris Garages are a British automaker owned by the Chinese government-backed SAIC Motors. SAIC is one of the ‘big-four’ automobile producers in the Peoples Republic. To give you an idea of scale, the car maker sold 180,000 cars from January to September this year and commands a share of 23.2 per cent of the domestic market.

Among the cars we tried out, the one that caught our attention was the HS SUV. It seems like an ideal candidate for what MG has described as its first Indian vehicle. It’s a handsome SUV this with a sufficient amount of shiny European design inputs to make it stand out in a crowd.

The interiors are leather lined with high quality plastics, electric front seats, dual zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and to top it all, every model in the HS range has earned a five-star rating in the Chinese NCAP crash tests. We didn’t get to drive the cars much but from the little bit that I got to sample, on a ride quality section of the Guangdae proving ground, things look quite impressive.

Equally impressive was the Roewe Marvel-X. It’s SAIC’s answer to a crop of new electric SUVs emerging from the German, British and American players in the game. Here too, interiors are high quality and the centre of attention is a huge touchscreen system that dominates the centre console.

It’s powered by a 53kWh battery and in ideal conditions, it will offer you a range of 500km which is the equivalent of what an A and A+ segment petrol powered car is capable of offering today. The car is sold as a Roewe and for now only in China but it does look promising for other markets too.      

If these two cars are anything to go by, then MG has done its homework and this should see it in good stead for the Indian market. However, despite the impressive quality of both these products, we need to see what the India-spec car has to offer and what elements of this basic DNA has been brought to India.

We are poised to become one of the largest car markets in the world and everyone wants a piece of this pie - MG included obviously. A source within the company literally told us that if SAIC cannot make it in India with MG, then our country is pretty much a closed door for car makers from the People’s Republic. So you see there is a lot riding on the shoulders of this company’s entry into the country. The first MG SUV will hit the production lines in Q2 of 2019 with a launch slated to happen in the first half of next year.

MG Motor’s first product to be a Compass/Tucson rival, will arrive in the first half of 2019

MG Motor plans to produce up to 1 lakh cars annually in India

MG Motor Electric SUV to be launched in 2020

MG Motor to open 100 dealer touchpoints next year

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