Chinese to revive MG, again?
It is going to come as something of a shock to Fortune Magazine’s senior editor, Alex Taylor III, who wrote that “[i] the Tata deal [to buy Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford] goes through, it turns the entire auto industry into a global bazaar.”
Mr. Taylor lives in a sheltered environment, working for Time Warner and writing for Fortune. He’s apparently missed the globalization of the auto industry, such as General Motors’ announcement last week that it had sold one million cars in China or Chrysler’s announcement last month that it would begin building Chinese Chery’s in Mexico as Dodges.
So, Mr. Taylor’s really going to be perplexed by the MG deal.
Yes, the old “Morris Garages” brand that used to be part of Rover.
Here’s the latest:
Shanghai Automotive Company agreed yesterday to pay $286 million to acquire the vehicle and parts operations of Nanjing Auto, another Chinese company. Nanjing bought the MG brand and rights in 2005 with the idea of reviving that brand and has introduced a coupe with the MG name into the Chinese market. But the company has been short of funds, which has hampered its efforts with the brand. On the other hand, Shanghai Auto is valued at $24 billion and has more money behind it, through its conglomerate parent SAIC, which puts it in the same financial league as Fiat or Hyundai. It currently has joint ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen. Last year, Shanghai Auto introduced a Chinese built car based on an earlier Rover design.
Will it now bring back the MG as an international brand?
The president of Shanghai Auto says they will, and that it will be a step in entering the European market.
The underlying premise, apparently, is that MG remains a familiar and venerated name in much of Europe. But, to remember the halcyon years of MG means you’re in your late sixties – at the youngest. If you’re in your fifties, an MG is one of those British cars that were always falling apart, old fashioned and unreliable. Younger than that and you’ve never heard of the brand, except perhaps as an entry in an automotive version of Trivial Pursuits.
Perhaps the primary attraction of the name is that it’s not Chinese. Shanghai Auto, after all, has also revived the Rover name, albeit only in China, to date. It may be that even a British brand most remembered, when remembered at all, as a symbol for everything that went wrong with the British auto industry, has a better image than a product overtly named with a Chinese brand.
Regardless, the significance of the announcement should wake up Mr. Taylor.
The Chinese are planning to use MG as a brand to sell in Europe.
China entering the European market, backed by a company with the assets of a Fiat or Hyundai – that’s turning the automotive industry into a “global bazaar,” Mr. Taylor.