In January this year, the official Facebook page of the local MG distributor posted the following declaration: “Only for the young. If you’re 40 and above, please buy other brands.”
As a 46-year-old person, my first thought was: WTF. My second thought was: The days of this company as the official Philippine importer and seller of MG cars are numbered.
I mean, what straight-thinking business organization would alienate the very age group that has ever heard of its brand (and has the actual means to purchase its products)? If you ever needed a concrete illustration of the idiom “shooting oneself in the foot,” this would be it.
To be fair to MG Philippines — and its very affable president, Morgan Say — the cocksure assertion seemed like an innocent attempt at going viral and making more people aware of the not-so-popular British automotive brand. Mr. Say told me at the time: “Without any intent to offend anyone, we prefer to market MG cars to the younger millennial generation. The MG brand image we are building on is to manage its client base among those who are still dynamic and innovative in their way of life and thinking. We are not after volume selling but for advising the old-fashioned generation that this is not the car brand for them. It may sound offensive if people are sensitive, and we sincerely apologize for that. However, we hope that people will respect our direction to be selective and exclusive with our client preference.”
That was it. That statement erased any doubt in my mind that the distributor didn’t have an iota of clue about what it was doing. Well-meaning, yes. Competent, no. My 40-plus-year-old self was 100% sure that Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (or SAIC), the Chinese automaker that now owns MG, would take back whatever license it had granted to its Philippine distributor — like a concerned mother would sternly confiscate the iPad she had bought her eight-year-old kid.
Well, my gut feel just came true. On Monday, Oct. 1, the MG brand in our market was officially turned over to The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCCI). If the latter sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the authorized distributor of Chevrolet in the country. So this makes TCCCI a two-brand operation.
An inside source tells me that “TCCCI received an invitation to meet with the representatives of MG Global to explore the possibility of distributing their products in the Philippines. After evaluating the business potential of the brand, TCCCI saw how MG could complement its overall business strategy and growth plans.”
My mental translation: “SAIC got fed up with its clueless Philippine distributor and started shopping the MG brand around.”
But seriously, SAIC is the business and technical partner of General Motors (GM) — the parent company of Chevrolet — in the very important market of China. While my source maintains that GM and MG (what a coincidence) are totally independent of each other, I am betting my well-used Corvette shirt that this deal is indeed an agreement between SAIC and GM.
Anyway, my informant also shares with me some of TCCCI’s grand plans for MG: “An independent operational team will be established to focus solely on the MG brand. Independent dealer partners will construct and establish MG showrooms nationwide. The first phase of the dealer network plan will cover Metro Manila, regional Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. All are expected to be completed by the first semester of 2019. To address any after-sales service concerns the motoring public may have while the dealer network is being established, independent service outlets and mobile service caravans will be accredited and designated by TCCCI, and made easily accessible. Exciting sales pop-up stores and road shows are already scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018, so the public can have a close encounter with all the exciting, new MG products.”
The formal brand re-launch will take place on Oct. 11, where three new MG models will be introduced to our market. I hear car buyers older than 40 will like these cars.
Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here: Do not take a dig at the age bracket of the big bosses that decide the fate of your business.