MG car maker aims at pushing for local success
Founded in 2012 as a joint venture between the Chinese SAIC Motor Company and the Thai agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), the SAIC Motor-CP Company has admitted finding the car marketplace in Thailand tough going over the past three years.
Nonetheless, the company president, Wu Huan, was recently quoted as saying he and his directors were committed to strengthening their position within the Thai marketplace before considering longer-term plans to expand into right-hand drive countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, among others.
The SAIC Motor-CP company makes and markets the MG6 1.8-litre saloon, MG3 hatchback and the MG5 1.5-litre saloon, which was launched in November last year with a price range between 649,000 and 759,000 baht.
It admits that sales have been very sluggish since the company opened its first factory, in Rayong provinces’ Hemaraj Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate, in June 2014, at a cost of nine billion baht. The factory has the capacity to produce 50,000 vehicles a year.
President Wu Huan reiterated that he wants to see MG become a top-tier car brand in Thailand and better known among Thai consumers, before taking the plunge into exporting. He did not give any indication about the level of sales the company was hoping to achieve before scouring overseas opportunities.
In 2015, SAIC Motor-CP had aimed at achieving sales of 5,000 MGs, but after nine months it had only managed to sell 1,890 units, admittedly into an overall slowing marketplace still feeling the effects of the previous government’s first car buyer scheme.
Of the small numbers so far, around 80 percent of the sales were in the MG3 hatchback, indicating perhaps that consumers are taking on the brand with some caution initially, and not being tempted as yet by the classy look of the saloons.
The car market in Thailand in general fell for the third successive year in 2015, declining by around 9.3 percent to some 800,000 vehicles overall.
SAIC Motor-CP is among 10 car manufacturers who have applied for the second phase of the government’s eco-car scheme. The company won Board of Investment approval with a plan to construct 110,000 eco-cars a year, worth 7.6 billion baht.
The company has announced plans to build a second car factory which would be dedicated to building eco-cars. Mr Wu had previously stated the company would delay any start on eco-cars until the industry picked up, but the company has had a change of heart.
Each eco-car maker is required to start production by 2019, although they can withdraw from the scheme at any time without incurring any penalty.