SHANGHAI -- China's SAIC Motor said it will begin sales of MG cars in mainland Europe though its Luxembourg-sales unit starting at the end of 2019.
MG cars have been sold in the UK since 2011 but SAIC delayed plans to launch in the rest of Europe after UK sales remained slow even though the brand enjoys high recognition from the time when its former British owners built classic sports cars such as the MGB roadster.
MG's rollout will include the majority of European markets and will focus on SUVs, subcompact hatchbacks and compact hatchbacks, SAIC said.
The MG brand - absent from mainland Europe for 12 years - has not been forgotten, said Pieter Gabriels, head of SAIC's European arm. "MG is like Alfa Romeo. It's very hard to destroy the brand. It's hard to forget the good times," he told Automotive News Europe at the sidelines of the Shanghai auto show.
SAIC took control of MG after merging in 2007 with Nanjing Automobile, which bought the assets of MG Rover following the collapse of the last British-owned mass-market automaker in 2005. MG Motors imports cars from China after ending final assembly at its factory in Longbridge, England, last year.
New sales methods
SAIC created a new company called SAIC Mobility based in Luxembourg last year to oversee mainland European sales. Originally it had planned for its UK unit also to handle sales throughout Europe. Gabriels said SAIC's decision wasn't made in response to the UK's vote to leave the European Union.
SAIC is talking with dealer groups about distributing cars and is investigating different ways to sell cars, for example directly to consumers through a web site, said Gabriels, who was in charge of Saab sales in the Netherlands and Hummer sales in Europe while working for Dutch importer Kroymans.
He said buyers will need to be convinced to choose MG. "If you just want to bring another brand to the market that is cheaper than the rest, you will fail. No-one is waiting for another car brand, so we better have a plan," he said.
The reasons for choosing an MG could be the car or the design or service, he said.
Gabriels declined to say which mainland European markets would be the first to get MGs but said the rollout would quickly expand to the majority of European countries. He did not give a timeframe
The model line-up will include the MG ZS subcompact SUV, which went on sale in China earlier this year, and the replacement for the current GS SUV compact.