While most consider the MG defunct, Chinese automakers have done the impossible and brought the English cars back. And on top of that, they’ve also brought new life to that other former British Leyland brand, Rover. It’s a reminder to Detroit that there might be unlocked value (perhaps first overseas) in brands like Oldsmobile and Plymouth, especially if intellectual property issues and brand names are managed carefully
Out of a gruesome financial mess, in 2005 Nanjing Auto bought the MG brand and its intellectual property assets for $97 million. At the same time, SAIC, or Shanghai Automotive, bought the rights to two MG Rover models. The result? The Rover is one of the top selling cars in China. And now Chinese automakers now have credible and storied brands to add to their increasingly nimble manufacturing skill.
Ford, of course, has not had as much success with the once British Leyland sister company, Land Rover. It announced this week that it was selling the company, along with Jaguar. The obvious question looms..will Chinese automakers be likely suitors? Or was the real value in MG the fact that it was a standalone valuable brand with shuttered factories and no liabilities?
MG might not be the only one to return. Nanjing has been, according to Motortrader.com, been in negotiations with the Healey family to bring back the Healey and Austin Healey brands. The family, through Healey Automotive Consultants, has fought to preserve the integrity of the brand, and set up the company to do it.
While English and American auto companies were unable to capitalize on the history and legacy of the MG brand, The Boston Globe Reports that the Nanjing plant of MG was not only “built in under a year” but with a capacity of 200,000 cars, it has “internal roads called Birmingham Avenue and England Avenue, reflecting MG’s U K roots.” Even better, MG is building a plant in the U.S. in Oklahoma to sell a full line of MG’s.
The value in these almost forgotten brands is a helpful reminder to companies like GM, which has evaluated all its fold of brands, including Vauxhall, Holden and Buick. The Buick is a popular car in China, with a history that predates Mao. It recalls association with pre-World War II American verve. The revival of MG taps into nostalgia for Imperial Britain, which ran Hong Kong and Shanghai. In recent years, GM has reportedly discussed eliminating Buick. Thankfully, it has never happened.
Perhaps there is hope for Oldsmobile after all.