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MG analysis: Where has it all gone RIGHT for MG Motor UK?

John Sandie 5th September 2019


MG ZS AND MG3 2019

Macdroitwich news hound, blogger and floppy-trousered Buckfast enthusiast JOHN SANDIE presents his latest MG ponderings

Lacklustre sales, missed targets on sales and dealer network expansion, a marketing team who presided over debacle after debacle after debacle... My two reports analysing MG's performance for the previous versions of the Macdroitwich blog told a very similar story about the brand's UK performance in 2014 and 2016.

The narrative in 2019 is very different. Figures published by the SMMT today show MG registered 663 cars in the normally quiet month of August, an increase of 13% against August 2018 and a 22nd month of consecutive growth, stretching all the way back to November 2017. Whilst in the past the brand embarrassingly built press releases around such claims in relation to improvements based around figures that were in the tens, registration figures are now far higher.

In 2013 – the banter era of MG Motor UK – registrations hit 513 for the whole year, even with the MG3 on stream for the last few months. However, since March 2018, MG have managed a monthly figure greater than that full year figure every month (excepting a typically very quiet February this year). Four out of the six “19” plate months, saw MG break the 1,000 registration barrier, something they had previously only ever done three times (March 2016, March 2018 and September 2018) in the new companies history. 6,789 MGs were registered on the 19 plate alone building up to a year to date figure so far of 7,989. Targets will surely now be to break the achievable barrier of 10,000 registrations in 2019.

You don't have to look hard to explain what's behind this success. It's largely down to the performance and growth of the MG ZS compact crossover. The MG ZS started slowly at launch in late 2017 coinciding with the start of this period of consecutive growth, but as 2018 and 2019 have continued it has started to excel.


An MG ZS in a field with a bicycle on it’s roof, yesterday

In the first 6 months of this year, 3,962 MG ZS were registered, and it looks set to comfortably improve on last year's full year total of 5,376. Comparing the first two quarters of this year to 2018, MG ZS registrations have increased by 50%. Making up just over 65% of MG registrations in the first half of 2019 the MG ZS is crucial to MG's success. With the MG ZS EV being added to the mix from September (having strong potential to be a massive hit for MG) and a facelift slightly further down the line this can surely only get better.

Personnel changes have also been significant. January 2018 saw the arrival of a new head of sales and marketing, Daniel Gregorious, who had previously worked with Renault, Chevrolet, Kia and PSA. He replaced Matthew Cheyne who one might suspect found his coat on a shaky peg after the MG GS launch – with its hilariously bad advertising campaign – and the problems surrounding the MG ZS launch where the car had to have an eleventh hour name change due to copyright issues over the intended MG XS name. An interesting sidenote around the famed MG “pizza” ad is that it was aired surprisingly widely on TV, as MG Motor UK put some considerable investment in TV advertising. The MG ZS has had its success WITHOUT a widely aired TV campaign.

Where his predecessors Cheyne and Guy Jones have struggled to avoid embarrassment and missed targets, Gregorious and his team have seemed like far more assured performers. Improvements have not just been witnessed in sales but in dealer network expansion. MG continually missed their stated targets in this regard under Jones and Cheyne and seemed to stall in the 70-80 range. Since Gregorious came in, the network has increased to 102 heading towards a target of 120 by the end of next year. MG also opted to move their HQ from Longbridge to a new office in Marylebone which may have allowed them to refocus from past mistakes.

There can be no coincidence that the twin arrivals of the new marketing man and the MG ZS seem to have coincided with actual success, but how have existing products fared?

Before the MG ZS hit the scene, it had been the MG3 that was the brand's core product. In my last analysis piece, written in 2017 and reporting on the UK performance in 2016, I felt that one of the key challenges MG faced was maintaining and building upon the success of the MG3. In 2016, over three quarters of MGs registered were MG3s, but at that point the car was starting to age. Predictably, since that piece the MG3 posted small declines in registration figures in both 2017 and 2018, as they declined from 2016's peak of 3,243 down to 2,692.

Action finally came in August of last year with a MG3 facelift that heavily modernised the styling and vastly improved the interior but left the dated engine alone. This has improved matters and MG3 registrations increased by 43.7% in the first half of 2019. It is also worth noting that in the past year, the MG3 has become a very popular choice on rental fleets with Europcar and their sister companies running a large number. As things stand, the MG3 makes up just under a third of MG's registration figures.

Last and very much least is the unloved MG GS. Much ballyhooed by fans at launch it failed to have an impact. MG probably thought as much themselves as the car only had low volume type approval restricting the model to annual registrations of 1000.


The ill-fated MG GS, alongside the MG3 in 2016

In both 2017 and 2018 the registration figures sat just below that level with many pre-registrations. This year, outside of plate change months the model's figures have bobbed around low double figures and the car is slowly disappearing from marketing materials. In the first 6 months of 2019 the MG GS accounted for only 5.6% of MG registrations. MG will be hoping its replacement, the MG HS, to be launched imminently performs a lot better.

2019 is going to go down as the year that MG have started to make an impact in the UK market. Today's year to date figures show a growth figure of 40.5% over the first eight months of the year and with the MG ZS EV to come things can only get better still.

The ongoing challenge and focus needs to be keeping the two core models – MG3 and MG ZS – successful. Facelifting the MG ZS next year should help for that model though there has to be the fear that the MG3 will be neglected. There will also need to be more from other models – like the MG HS – than the MG GS and MG6 have offered.

MG HS comment


A birthday - and a cautionary tale

MarinaST 26th August 2019

Macdroitwich contributor and boiler expert MARINAST throws a spanner in the 60th birthday bash works of the MINI

This week (Monday 26th actually) sees the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Mini. To many car enthusiasts the Mini is a thing of wonder and a glorious high point in the history of the UK car industry. But there is a dark side to its existence, it’s something that has nagged at me for many years and it is this.

The Mini killed the company.

Of course it took many decades…