Battle lines are being drawn over who will hold the New Zealand distribution rights for iconic British vehicle brand MG.
The brand, founded in the United Kingdom in the early 1920s, is now owned by SAIC Motor Ltd, China’s largest motor manufacturer which also produces the LDV commercial vehicles sold in New Zealand.
The MG distribution rights are currently held by Christchurch-headquartered British Motor Distributors (BMD), which has MG dealerships in Christchurch and Wellington, and another pending in Auckland.
But now the distributor of the LDV product, Taupo-headquartered Great Lake Motor Distributors (GLMD), wants MG as well – and it says the fact it has been named LDV World Distributor of the Year for the past three years in a row shows it would be a success.
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“GLMD’s intention is to do everything and anything possible to obtain the MG distribution rights and market MG through our 19 strong dealer network,” managing director Rick Cooper told Stuff at the big Shanghai Motor Show.
“As the No 1 LDV distributor in the world we are well placed to do this. MG is a perfect fit with our LDV brand and we look forward to bringing this iconic brand back to New Zealand.”
But BMD managing director John Fairhall, Christchurch, says his company has no intention of letting MG go.
“We’ve got a five-year contract that we signed only a year ago, and we’re quite excited because we’re expecting quite a bit of new product,” he said when told of GLMD’s intentions.
“But that’s motoring – and it’s good to see Rick Cooper showing interest in MG. They’re doing a fantastic job with LDV, but we’d argue that they are specialists in the commercial vehicle market.”
MG has been virtually absent from the New Zealand new vehicle market in recent times, with fewer than 30 of the brand’s MG6 liftbacks and MG3 hatchbacks sold last year. But Fairhall says this has been because the cars have only been available with manual transmissions at a time when all the demand has been for autos.
But now a new generation of MG vehicles are being developed and launched by SAIC, many of which are available for right-hand drive markets including New Zealand.
These include the GS small SUV that is about to go on sale in Australia, and the ZS which is SAIC’s first internet-connected compact SUV. There’s also likely to be a new MG6 sedan which would be an MG derivative of the Roewe i6 now sold in China.
Development of MG product for worldwide markets is part of an SAIC Motor Ltd strategy to increase its overseas sales as a percentage of total production volume. Last year the overseas sales were less than 15 per cent of total volume, and the immediate target is to increase this to 20 per cent.
“We intend proving that China, as a brand, can do something,” said SAIC vice president Lan Qingsong at a media conference during the Shanghai Motor Show.
“The globalisation of Chinese enterprise is coming – and SAIC intends being at the forefront of it.”