An all-wheel drive electric roadster: MG working on MX-5 rival
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With more and more of the world's manufacturers focusing on SUVs and utes, it's a refreshing change to hear that an interesting new sports car could soon be on the horizon.
Albeit, from a surprising source.
It's hard to tell where MG are at these days. Many of their more dedicated fans from years gone by abandoned them the moment they were bought up by Chinese investors in 2007, but that group (who wound up merging with SAIC Motor; one of China's biggest automakers) have kept the company alive.
And though their new efforts are a rarity on New Zealand roads (there is the odd MG3 subcompact hatchback and MG6 five-door sedan out there if you know where to look), you can tell that there's some momentum brewing at MG. Their MG GS crossover became the first Chinese car to score a five-star safety rating late last year, and just over a year ago they unveiled an ambitious sports-car concept; the dashing E-Motion Concept Coupe.
And now SAIC Motor's design boss Shao Jingfeng has given clear indication that the manufacturer could well head down the same two-door convertible 'British sports car' pathway that they used to dominate through the '60s and '70s.
Speaking to Drive, Jingfeng confirmed that a convertible rival for the Mazda MX-5 was on the way — a “new platform, totally new sports car, all-wheel drive.”
“I will make MG brand closer to history, because the brand stopped for several years and for customers [building SUVs] doesn’t answer, 'who is MG?' So we need to get back to the beginning," he added.
There is no further word from Jingfeng on how this possible throwback vehicle will look or when more detail is set to emerge, but nonetheless it's a positive indication for those wanting more options in the sports car space — or simply those who would like to see MG go back to their roots.
The last time the brand made a sports car was via the Rover MGF and MGTF. Arriving on the scene in 1995 as the MGF, it was mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, and quickly became the best selling sports car in Britain (they sold a fair few here, too). This was all a great start, but a car often knocked for being a bit top heavy and soft; not to mention unreliable thanks to prolific head gasket problems and curious hydragas suspension.
As a result it spent most of its shelf life trying to justify itself by getting progressively harder and harder, which eventually resulted in the MGTF [pictured above] in 2002. An improvement on all fronts, sure, but it mattered for little when MG went into receivership just a few years later in 2005.
So why dig up the past and return to producing sports cars in a climate that doesn't demand seem to want them? Well, as Chinese carmakers hope to take on the European market in the coming years, MG provides a somewhat familiar name and face that could aid in sales — particularly in the UK. Producing a roadster, as Jingfeng points out, could be the ticket to reconstructing MG's British brand identity — even if they're now based in Shanghai.