With a very strong start off the line with the first big effort of 2019, The Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCCI) flew out the Philippine Motoring Media from January 8 to 11 to Shanghai, China to get a deeper appreciation and immersion for their new brand MG (Morris Garage) which they started distributing late last year in our domestic market. By now you all should be aware that the British heritage brand (since 1924) Morris Garage (MG), which is owned by the Chinese state-owned automotive company SAIC Motor Corporation Limited since 2006, is now officially distributed by The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI) which is the master distributor of Chevrolet. So, the MG brand has a solid base to work from and will in fact have a speedy rollout of dealerships by working with many current Chevrolet dealerships while simultaneously forging new partnerships. It is said that by the end of this year, MG would have a dealer network of 16 outlets.
With this second coming, I can see the MG brand flourishing in our market with its new product line focused on maximum overall value supported by a 5-year factory (or 100,000 kilometers, whichever comes first) warranty. Moreover, Philippine car owners are also assured of 24-hour roadside assistance and customer care assistance. There is also their new “One-Hour Max and Go” program that refers to a speedy, one-hour basic maintenance service procedure. MG also has a customer care hotline that is available 24/7 called “MG HERO Services,” which offers 24/7 roadside assistance, and “Mobile Gadget,” which allows users to pair their MG to a proprietary smartphone app where they can closely monitor their car’s running stats, and allows them to schedule an appointment online from the convenience of their phone for periodic maintenance. In the UK, where the market would be the most critical toward MG, they get a 7-year or 130,000-kilometer factory warranty to demonstrate how committed and confident SAIC Motor is with their home market.
SAIC MOTOR UK Technical Centre Ltd team managing director Dave Lindley, with years of experience and success from Lotus, Ricardo, and the MG Rover Group together with his team of engineers, works on all MG products for Europe, and supports product development in China and other world markets. SAIC Motor has their manufacturing plant for MG in Shanghai, China with design and engineering headquarters in Longbridge, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Both interior and exterior designs are led by British design chief Carl Gotham and his 25-strong team.
Managing the Philippine media for this trip was Senior Vice President & Director for Marketing and Communication Services, Lyn M. Buena, MG PR Manager Chino Subido, Atty. Alberto B. Arcilla, President and Managing Director of TCCCI, and Alex Liu, SAIC Motor International Co., Ltd. Overseas Chief Representative New Business Development.
We were already very impressed with our first local test unit, a domestic top-spec Meteorite Black ZS Alpha, before I flew out to see the manufacturing and research/development facilities of SAIC, in China. But the reinforcement was essential and most welcome by myself and the Philippine media to understand the depth, plans, and future of the MG brand as well as its current and future products.
My perspective of SAIC and MG changed dramatically after my experience in Shanghai meeting with some team members and touring the SAIC Intelligent Plaza, the SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle Co. (SMPV) facility that housed the Design Center, Intelligent Safety Lab, Climatic Wind Tunnel Laboratory, and NVH testing, and the gargantuan manufacturing plant in Lingang.
I initially regarded SAIC Motor to be much like Austria’s Magna Steyr AG & Co KG group that builds several automotive models for multiple manufacturers as a sub-contractor. I am happy to say that I have been thoroughly enlightened that SAIC Motor does exponentially more than what Magna Steyr does. For perspective, as of last year, 2018, Magna Steyr has 12,000 employees, and they build the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the BMW 5-Series, the all-new BMW Z4, the Jaguar E-Pace, the Jaguar I-Pace, and since much is shared with the Z4, the all-new Toyota Supra. Their facility has an annual production capacity of approximately 200,000 vehicles. They have been around for more than a century and have produced more than 3.5 million vehicles from 26 different models to date
What are SAIC’s figures? They actually started in 1955 building engines but we will concentrate on 2011 when they began building complete vehicles for other manufacturers as well as for their own brands. SAIC Motor have approximately 155,000 employees, 6 different manufacturing facilities, they build and assemble multiple models for 14 brands; Roewe, MG, Volkswagen, Skoda, Sunwin, Hong Yan, IVECO, Yue Jin, Wu Ling, Maxus, Bao Jun, Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac. In 2017, SAIC produced 6.93 million vehicles, more than double the Chinese automotive industry’s average growth pace. In 2018, SAIC produced and sold 7.0517 million vehicles!
I am certainly not diminishing what Magna Steyr is and what they have done, they are definitively a leading brand-independent engineering and manufacturing partner for OEMs, but I used their figures as a sounding board to help appreciate the scale and breadth that SAIC Motor is doing in such a short period of time; it is truly mind-blowing. Without a doubt, SAIC Motor Corporation Limited (SAIC Motor) is the largest auto company on China’s A-share market. So, with so much money, discipline, effort, research, development, technology, experience, partnerships and more involved, you can all be assured as a customer that if you buy a vehicle built by them that all the factory standards were met and even exceeded.
Since SAIC Motor has been a large-scale producer of Electrification solutions and end products, we got to experience driving their excellent final-production EV and Hybrid models of MG and Roewe on the Shanghai Tianma circuit. If the Roewe logo and name look familiar, you would be correct. When SAIC purchased MG from the MG Rover Group in 2006 they couldn’t buy the Rover name as it was owned by Ford, but they got to purchase everything else. So, in essence, even if the Roewe brand is technically a fully domestic Chinese brand, all the models can easily and legally be rebranded to MG. Which is also the reason why we were given the opportunity to test the outstanding products from Roewe to begin with, especially the all-wheel-drive fully electric Marvel X luxury midsize crossover.
The Marvel X looks really great, particularly in Royal Blue with the contrasting caramel leather/Alcantara interior seen in the pictures. I want one!! The Marvel X test unit uses their proprietary i-AWD system powered by two electric permanent-magnet synchronous motors, with a 52.5 kWh ternary lithium battery, 370-kilometer range, 298 hp / 490 lb-ft of torque, achieves 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds with a governed 170 km/h top speed. We also got to test the fully electric MG eMG6, the awesome MG HS 30T Trophy (the aggressive but opulent version of the RX5), pure EV Roewe Ei5, Roewe i5, and the MG ZS on the 2.063-kilometer (1.282-mile) Shanghai Tianma circuit which is certified for Formula 3/WTCC/CSBK. We used the open area on the track for the gymkhana exercises.
At the end of the four cold days in Shanghai, my assessments of both SAIC and their MG/Roewe brands are simply this: the company and their brands have all the engineering, design, materials, technology, and financing to not just compete in the world arena but be a genuine force to reckon with. They are not here to play; they genuinely intend to seize serious market share.
MG HS Trophy
MG Marvel X