IN 2018 SAIC Motor’s sales rose 1.75% from 2017, according to a recent company announcement. Though marginal, the increase came against the China auto industry’s 6% dip — the first in 28 years — as the number of vehicles sold in the country last year reached only 22.7 million, or some 1.5 million units less than the tally in 2017, data from the China Passenger Car Association showed. Still, SAIC Motor said its domestic market share is expected to remain at around a fourth of the industry’s total volume, courtesy of the 7.05 million vehicles the company’s various brands delivered last year.
Among the brands belonging in SAIC Motor’s (and its SAIC Passenger Vehicle division) portfolio are SAIC Maxus, SAIC Volkswagen, SAIC-General Motors, Shanghai General Motors Wuling, NAVECO, SAIC-IVECO and Shanghai Sunwin Bus. On top of these, SAIC Motor also manufactures vehicle components and is a leading auto financing service provider in China.
BRITISH ROOTS, GLOBAL POWER
Included as well in the company’s stable are former British brands Rover (now called Roewe) and MG, or Morris Garages.
MG, acquired by SAIC Motor in 2011, was re-launched in the Philippines in October 2018 as the brand finds itself represented in the country by The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI), also the distributor of Chevrolet (in turn a General Motors brand). As part of the brand’s new strategy in the Philippines, SAIC Motor on Jan. 8-10 in Shanghai, China, presented some of MG’s technologies and capabilities, as well as stressed SAIC Motor’s might by which the storied marque is propped.
MG has emerged as one of SAIC Motor’s growth engines. In 2018, more than 200,000 MG cars were sold in China, representing a 40% increase, according to the company. The brand’s growth was even higher overseas with a 183% spike — 73,000 MG cars were delivered in nine countries in South America, about six countries in the Middle East, Australia, India, Thailand and the UK (where the MG brand was born in 1924).
MG sales last year in South America reached more than 10,000 units, a 90% increase, while those in the Middle East nearly hit the 9,000-unit mark, or 332% more than the previous year. Deliveries in Australia for the period totaled around 5,000 units, a 446% spike credited to the introduction of the MG ZS and MG3 models.
But it was in Thailand were MG’s performance zoomed. The company sold 27,155 vehicles in the country last year, with the figure equating to a 124% growth. The total is enough for MG to land in the top 10 list of best-selling cars in Thailand, which is no small feat considering the company has been operating in the country only in the last four years.
Well, SAIC Motor and MG are quite serious about their intentions on Thailand. In 2016 the companies announced the start of construction of a factory in Chonburi, located only 80 kilometers south of Bangkok. The new facility, considered one of Thailand’s most advanced, was opened in December 2017. It can produce up to 100,000 vehicles annually, and one of its products — the MG ZS with the i-Smart technology — is known to top its segment periodically.
Even the latest markets MG entered — India, Egypt, Philippines — are showing promise. The brand announced in India last week it would launch the new Hector SUV in the country in the second quarter of the year. In its first year of business in Egypt, in 2018, MG already managed to move 3,763 cars.
POSITIVE OUTLOOK ON PHL
“We can adapt the same success in the Philippines,” said Ying Lu, MG design senior manager, during a Jan. 9 presentation at the SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle Company design center in Shanghai.
For his part, Albert B. Arcilla, president and managing director of TCCCI-MG Philippines, cited the efficiency of SAIC Motor executives as one of the factors that can potentially help the brand’s progress in the Philippines. “They act swiftly, so decisions are made immediately,” he said. Mr. Arcilla added the wide range of products in the MG portfolio is also a strength on which the brand’s business in the Philippines could rely.
Upon its re-entry in the Philippines, MG immediately launched three new models; the RX5 compact SUV, the MG6 fastback sedan, and the ZS crossover SUV, prices of which are between just a little over P800,000 and P1.2 million. The brand seeks to establish 16 independent MG dealerships, which are targeted to be fully operational by the middle of the year.
Clearly, MG is moving at full throttle in the country. — Brian M. Afuang