MG Aiming For Kia According to MG Designer Martin Ulharik

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MG are aiming to copy Kia’s rise to success according to MG’s new chief designer, Martin Ulharik, the former Nissan designer was interviewed by Automotive News on MG’s plans for the future. Just ten years ago it would have been foolish to compare MG-Rover products with Kia’s, but with Kia’s steadfast determination to become a world leading car company the Korean brand has flourished across all key markets.

Despite numerous stumbles, Chinese-owned British brand MG Motor aims to match Kia’s quick rise in Europe by also focusing on design.

“In terms of product and competitiveness I’d say we’re not very far away [from Kia] already,” MG vice director of design Martin Ulharik told Automotive News Europe. “In five years we’ll be well on our way.”

Ulharik, a former Nissan design executive who is now based at MG parent Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.’s European headquarters in Longbridge, central England, said that MG has the same design culture as Kia. The Korean automaker has invested millions of euros to establish design and r&d centers in Germany to better meet the demands of European car buyers. Kia also has been growing fast in Europe since making former Audi design head Peter Schreyer its styling boss in 2004.

Will MG be able to succeed by following Kia? One automotive analyst thinks it will be a tough job:

Kia [and Hyundai] have invested a great deal in marketing, sales networks and creating this positive brand image, which I can’t see SAIC being prepared for,” Fletcher said. “I really don’t see them being able to get anywhere near where Kia is now by the end of the decade.”

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  • santos palisander
    November 25, 2012

    Ash, as you’ve said before, marketing and customer service are not strengths of the Chinese automakers, but they will be absolutely necessary for the success of MG in developed markets. With the planned expansion of the dealer network into continental Europe, it will be fascinating to follow their progress on these important fronts. The odds are always against the new guy, but history tells us that it can be done.

  • Ash
    November 25, 2012

    Exactly. The Koreans did it faster than the Japanese as they were eager to bring in foreign or local knowledge to make their products right, the Japanese did it by making mistakes and learning the markets needs, but Chinese brands will have no room for mistakes.

  • Ezeee
    November 25, 2012

    Styling looks too Oriental at present whereas Kia has aimed squarely at trying to produce a more European look. Choosing a Nissan (Japanese led) designer is probably not the right route to go. It’s the same with Williams-Kenny, and ex-Toyota designer! If they want to tick the ‘British style’ box, why have they not tried to employ Peter Stevens or another British designer that would have a greater understanding of the British/European design appeal.. There is a pool of talent here in the UK.

    MG lacks an identity at present that does little to regard the past heritage.. Jaguar/Land Rover have done a far better job of this with inspiration from past design DNA.

    The second generation cars should be much more of the British style but I shall not hold my breath… At the moment, it just looks like any other chinese car with an MG badge stuck on it.

  • Dogtucker
    November 26, 2012

    If these were selling in the numbers in the UK that they should be, then one could possibly believe that MG have a small chance of comparing themselves with KIA. there is no way in hell that MG will become close to KIA without some serious and decent models with quality and looks and the driveability that KIA have. Drive all models in each make and compare-I have.
    Now if Mr Ulharik had compared himself with BYD or Chery, then maybe he would be more believable!

  • Anon
    November 28, 2012

    Mostly it will depend on how much SAIC is willing to invest, particularly in product development.

    MG needs a range of vehicles (city car, supermini, small family hatch/saloon, medium family hatch saloon, MPV, SUV etc), and they need to be class competitive.

    Expanding from the current one model range (in Europe) is going to require a large amount of investment and simply cannot be done in less than four to five years.

    Building out the dealer network will also take time.

    The MG6 is a very promising start, in terms of ride/handling it is already class competitive, and its main failings are a slightly cheap looking dash and a small choice of engines. However it has already demonstrated that there is significant design and engineering talent within SAIC.

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