LONDON -- MG Motor plans to capitalize on strong UK demand for its ZS small full-electric SUV with the launch of two more electrified models by the end of this year, including the MG5 electric compact station wagon.
MG's vehicle sales in the UK rose 81 percent to 5,465 in the first quarter, boosted by demand for the ZS, amid an overall market collapse of 31 percent due to the coronavirus lockdown.
The electric ZS went on sale at the end of 2019. The SUV accounted for a third of MG's volume in the first quarter.
"So far it has been a huge contribution to volume growth," MG UK sales and marketing manager, Daniel Gregorious, told Automotive News Europe in a phone interview.
The appetite for electric models is encouraging MG to expand from the UK into mainland Europe.
Last year the brand launched in Norway and Netherlands with the electric ZS. When coronavirus lockdowns permit, MG will resume plans to launch in Italy and open its first showroom in Paris.
"If it wasn't for electric it would be much, much tougher to do that," Gregorious said.
The MG5 EV wagon will go on sale as soon as showrooms reopen in the UK, with deliveries starting in the fourth quarter, Gregorious said.
Deliveries of a plug-in hybrid version of the HS compact SUV will also start in the fourth quarter.
Only the MG3 small hatchback will remain without an electrified version. The MG3 will continue to be built in China for export to markets like the UK despite sales of the model stopping in China.
"The MG3 is in a critical segment. The dealers need that volume," Gregorious said.
MG now has 107 dealers in the UK, up from 67 at the end of 2017.
The storied UK brand has been in Chinese hands since 2005, when Nanjing Auto purchased it from bankrupt UK automaker MG Rover. Two years later, Nanjing Auto was acquired by SAIC. MG has been SAIC's preferred export brand ever since.
MG launched its first all-new model, the MG6, in the UK in 2011 but struggled in its birthplace market as buyers failed see value in the models, despite a series of price cuts.
MG's UK fortunes changed in 2017 when it launched its first small SUV, the gasoline-powered ZS, which appealed more to younger buyers. "It was what the market needed. It hit so many targets," Gregorious said.
The electric version has now found favor with new buyers by combining a range of 165 miles (266 km) under WTLP testing, from its 44.5 kilowatt-hour battery, with a competitive price of 25,495 pounds (28,900 euros, $31,300) after a government grant.
Unlike some high-demand EVs, for example Hyundai's Kona in the same segment, the availability of the MG EV is good.
"It helps that SAIC has huge industrial capacity. If we ask for more, they say, 'sure, you can have them'," Gregorious said.
EV growth has been fueled in the UK partly by generous company car tax breaks.
While overall UK car sales crashed 44 percent in March, EV sales grew 197 percent to 11,694, taking a 4.6 percent market share against 0.9 percent in the same month in 2019.