LONGBRIDGE, England -- Despite numerous stumbles, Chinese-owned British brand MG Motor aims to match Kia's quick rise in Europe by also focusing on design.
"In terms of product and competitiveness I'd say we're not very far away [from Kia] already," MG vice director of design Martin Uhlarik told Automotive News Europe. "In five years we'll be well on our way."
Uhlarik, a former Nissan design executive who is now based at MG parent Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.'s European headquarters in Longbridge, central England, said that MG has the same design culture as Kia. The Korean automaker has invested millions of euros to establish design and r&d centers in Germany to better meet the demands of European car buyers. Kia also has been growing fast in Europe since making former Audi design head Peter Schreyer its styling boss in 2004.
Another key to Kia's rise was the opening of car, engine and transmission plants in eastern Europe.
MG has its British heritage to build its brand on, something that an unknown such as Kia didn't have. However, IHS Automotive Senior Analyst Ian Fletcher believes MG will struggle to match Kia's success unless SAIC is willing to invest in all parts of the business.
"Kia [and Hyundai] have invested a great deal in marketing, sales networks and creating this positive brand image, which I can't see SAIC being prepared for," Fletcher said. "I really don't see them being able to get anywhere near where Kia is now by the end of the decade."
Through 10 months, Kia's European sales are up 24 percent to 299,476 vehicles compared with last year, according to JATO Dynamics. MG has sold less than 1,000 cars in the UK, which is the only market where the brand is available.