MG is back on sale in New Zealand, where just under 77,000 new cars were sold last year, at three showrooms.

The right hand drive MG6 sedan and hatchback models come from SAIC in Shanghai, not the UK SKD assembly plant in Longbridge which also does RHD cars.

The smaller MG3 hatchback will be launched later in the year, goauto.com.au reported.

Dealerships in Christchurch, Wellington and Rotorua opened in December with the first cars sold this month.

The importer is British Motor Distributors, a branch of John Fairhall’s Archibald Motor Group that sells a wide range of European luxury cars such as Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo in NZ.

BMD operations manager Kerry Cheyne told GoAuto that a fourth dealership would be opened soon, adding: “The future is bright.”

The company imported eight MG6 cars about a year ago as part of its warm-up for NZ distribution, showing them off to potential dealers and journalists.

GoAuto said SAIC Motor plans to expand MG to Australia where independent [UK-based] importer Inchcape has been mentioned as a possible contender for the MG rights alongside its existing Subaru business.

Another importer – WMC Group – is just about to launch another of SAIC’s automotive brands, LDV Vans (formerly Maxus), in Australia, where they will take on the likes of Hyundai’s iLoad and Toyota’s HiAce.

Chinese MGs cars are already sold in a wide number of countries across several regions, including the UK, Middle East, South America, Latin America, Korea and Africa, Go Auto said.

Because the MG6 was developed with right hand drive for the UK, and meets Europe’s stringent safety and emissions standards, it is ideal for distribution in other RHD markets such as South Africa and Australia.

The first Kiwi cars have a 118kW 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine while a new 1.9-litre diesel engine is said to be in the pipeline for the UK, and possibly NZ.

GoAuto noted that MGs are set to be built in Thailand from 2014 under a joint venture deal with that country’s CP Group, likely meaning all MGs will be shipped to Australia and NZ from the southeast Asian country, with which Australia has a free trade agreement.

The MG brand has a long history in New Zealand with small numbers of the Abingdon-built models such as MGA and MGB being imported up to the mid-1970s, though supply was limited by import licence restrictions and prices high due to higher tariffs on imported, rather than locally assembled cars. The brand was relaunched as a full import in the early 1990s with the famous octagon badge appearing on models such as Rover's Montego.

The MGB was assembled in the 1960s in Australia when Leyland Australia had a full manufacturing operation at Zetland in Sydney. Part of the site - Leyland ended production in 1974 - is now occupied by independent car importer Ateco's flagship showroom. The MGB was also assembled in South Africa.