Roewe Vision E concept from this years AutoShanghai

Roewe Vision E concept from this year's AutoShanghai

SAIC has two main passenger car manufacturing JVs in China. These are with the Volkswagen Group and General Motors. China's largest state owned OEM also has much in the way of plans for its own makes and it is these which are examined here below.

MG

Coming off a low base, MG is a strong performer in China so far this year. As at 30 June, the latest period for which statistics have been released, the brand had delivered 61,611 cars and SUVs to customers. For the same period of 2016, just 38,195 vehicles had found buyers which in itself called this make's future into question.

The UK is one of the few markets for MG outside China where sales are in relatively decent numbers, but still, just 1,993 vehicles were delivered during the first half of 2017. This despite MG having been relaunched in Britain six years ago. Plans to export cars and SUVs to other EU countries have been delayed several times, with the final quarter of 2019 now stated by SAIC as when the brand will be rolled out to LHD European markets. The company has established a regional office in Luxembourg to co-ordinate sales, marketing and servicing activities.

One market where MG could be highly successful, provided the strategy and products are suitable, is India. SAIC is planning to add the brand to what could one day be the world's largest passenger vehicle market. The firm conducted long negotiations with General Motors India over the purchase of the shuttered Halol plant which formerly manufactured Chevrolet vehicles. At the moment, it is unclear what SAIC intends to do with the site as the firm has also stated that it might instead have a greenfield production complex erected elsewhere. The uncertainty is centred on potential obligations to former workers at the plant as well as some 300,000 vehicles produced there. The official position is nonetheless that the brand will be present but possibly not until 2020.

Two former top GM India executives have been recruited to lead MG Motor India. They are Rajeev Chaba and P Balendran who are respectively president and executive director. The management team is said to be devising a strategy for the manufacture of export market vehicles as well as those for the domestic market. Some of these might well have electrified powertrains.

MG's big sales success in 2017 has been due to SUVs but still, the brand does well in its home market with cars too.

Confusingly, there are three small hatchbacks which have the MG 3 badge. The first of them is the 3 SW. This B segment/sub-compact crossover debuted two years ago at the Chengdu motor show. The SW (Station Wagon, even though it is not) is simply an MG 3 with raised suspension, roof rails, revised front and rear styling and some plastic cladding on its sides. It will likely be discontinued in 2018, given how old the basic model is.

Another MG 3 is the newer B segment five-door hatchback. In China, this seven year old car competes against the Skoda Fabia Jingrui and Hyundai Verna and in the UK it is a low-price challenger for the likes of the Kia Rio and Suzuki Swift. A crossover variant, the 3 Xross, had its global debut at the Chengdu motor show in September 2011 and was in dealerships almost immediately. The 3 Xross supplements the 3 SW in China, giving MG what could be possibly seen as a pair of crossovers.

A facelifted MG3 was launched at November 2013's Guangzhou motor show and a second facelift premiered at the Shanghai motor show this past April. The next generation body styles of the 3 range should be released from 2019.

Having discontinued the 5 and 6 sedans/hatchbacks, SAIC has seemed unlikely to add other 'number' cars but sources believe that an MG 4 is on the way, with AP13 said to be the development code. This new model could appear as early as the fourth quarter of this year. Few other details are known.

Yet another model in the MG car range is the GT. What was an additional vehicle - rather than a replacement - had its world premiere at the Chengdu motor show in August 2014 going on sale in China three months later. The GT is meant to be a four-door coupe along the lines of the former Volkswagen CC, though the MG is smaller. Sales haven't been too strong but nonetheless, SAIC should give the GT a facelift in 2018. This model may not necessarily be replaced.

A much larger sedan, which could well be a plug-in four-door coupé, is a possibility, according to SAIC executives. Speaking at the 2017 Shanghai motor show where the vehicle in question, the E-Motion concept, was revealed, MG brand executives claimed that the design study could well be a preview of a would-be rival for the Tesla Model S.

The E-Motion had scissor doors and was a big coupé with a front end which made it look like a Jaguar. If built, this E segment hatchback would be based on SAIC's Electric Modular Architecture and not likely to appear before 2020.

The real driver of MG's recent sales rise is its SUVs. The smallest is the ZS. This 4,314mm sub-compact went on sale in China during March after a motor show late last year. The first versions are available only in front-wheel drive form. In certain export markets, such as the UK, the ZS will instead be the MG XS. EV and PHEV versions are due to be added during 2018. The life cycle should be seven years, which means a facelift in the third quarter of 2020 and a replacement in 2023.

Supplementing the ZS/XS is the larger GS, also known as the Rui Teng. This is also a good performer and sized to compete with the Haval H6 and Nissan Qashqai. It is built in China and until September 2016 was also assembled in England. The GS was previewed by the CS, a concept which premiered at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013. The production model was revealed to the media in December 2014.

Production commenced in March 2015 with the motor show debut taking place at Auto Shanghai during the following month. Cars became available in UK dealerships from June 2016, as planned.

The GS was at one time said to be based on the same architecture as the SsangYong Korando C but instead, it uses SAIC's own C platform.

There has been some confusion over this SUV's name. Originally announced as the GTS in late December 2014, it was then changed to GS one week later. Now, the badge says GS Rui Teng in China but GS in Britain.

In April 2015, GKN Driveline identified itself as the supplier of the GS' front- and all-wheel drive systems. The on-demand AWD system was developed and fully integrated by Shanghai GKN Huayu Driveline systems (SDS), a joint venture between GKN and Huayu Automotive. GKN supplies the MG GS platform's driveline. Front and rear sideshafts, propshafts, power transfer units and rear drive modules are all manufactured locally, though the system's electromagnetic control device and hypoid gears are sourced from Japan. The complete system is assembled and delivered just in time to an SAIC factory in Shanghai.

A facelifted model went on sale in Chinese dealerships during December 2016. The GS is expected to have a short lifecycle with the second generation model to be longer and due in late 2019. This larger SUV should also be available in seven-seater form, which would make sense given how many millions of families often need room for parents, children and one-two grandparent(s).

SAIC will add a third SUV to the MG range in 2019. The additional vehicle will be positioned above the GS and based on the Roewe RX5. There should also be an electrified variant. In China, the D/E segment model will be a rival for the Haval H8, Kia KX7 and others in this size class.

Roewe

The Roewe brand is having a stonking 2017, at least compared to its fairly dismal performance last year. At the half-way point, Chinese market deliveries numbered 171,994 whereas in H1 of CY2016 the total was just 71,496 vehicles. It's not hard to see what the effect of SAIC adding several SUVs to its line-up has been.

One of the brand's oldest models is the 4.5m long 350. It has been built at what had once been Nanjing Auto's Pukou plant since 2010. In some countries, the 350 is or has been sold as the MG 350 and the car itself is closely related to the former MG 5 and current MG GT.

The 360 is the eventual 350 replacement. A 4.6m long sedan, it went on sale in China in August 2015, offering the choice of normally aspirated 1.5-litre and GM-sourced turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engines. The 360 shares its platform and wheelbase with GM China's Chevrolet Cruze.

The car's motor show debut was at Chengdu in September 2015. A facelifted version will be released in the Chinese market during September. The 360 should be replaced in 2020.

Sized in the segment above the 350 and 360 is the i6. This sedan was first seen at the Guangzhou motor show it November 2016. It replaced the 550. SAIC began building this Compact/C segment sedan in January, sales commencing during the following month. There is also a plug-in hybrid variant, the i6e. The PHEV has a deeper grille and is powered by the combination of a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and one electric motor. Both cars should be facelifted in 2020. The i6 and i6e replacements should then appear in 2024.

The largest of Roewe's sedans is the 950. Now in its last months of production, this E segment four-door car is the old-shape Buick LaCrosse with its own body. The 950 had its world premiere at the Beijing motor show in April 2012, going on sale straight after the event. A facelift had its public premiere at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2014. Six months previously, a 950 Fuel Cell concept had been a world premiere at the Beijing show but nothing more came of this prototype.

The second generation 950 is expected to have been previewed by the Roewe Vision R, a concept first seen at the 2015 Guangzhou motor show. This gold-painted design study was similar in stance to the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé. The new model should be based upon the latest Buick LaCrosse. It will likely be in dealerships towards the end of 2017. A world debut at the Chengdu motor show is possible.

Roewe's sales have been rising, even without the brand having a range of SUVs. At the moment, the only such model is the RX5. It was revealed as a prototype at the Beijing motor show in April 2016. This was first vehicle for the SAIC Motor's SSA architecture. Production commenced in late 2016 and should continue until 2023, following a facelift in mid-2020.

The RX5 will be joined by the smaller RX3 during the fourth quarter. Roewe's second SUV will be displayed for the first time later in August at the Chengdu motor show. This 4.4m long model is set to enter production in October. It will share SAIC's C architecture with the MG ZS, which is around the same size.

A third SUV is being developed and likely to be revealed in production form during 2018. The Vision-E concept (pictured) was created to show the media and the Chinese public that what will likely be sold as the RX7 is on the way.

Maxus

It isn't a major brand, and yet SAIC has done well to expand Maxus, which started life as the rump of the bankrupt LDV (Leyland Daf Vehicles/Vans). Things are looking up, thanks to the addition of new models, and that is reflected in home market sales. During 1 January to 30 June, deliveries of passenger vehicles numbered 12,371 units, making this China's 60th largest brand (Roewe was in 22nd ahead of Mazda and below BYD, and MG in 35th).

The D90 will be a large SUV and the first such model in this segment for Maxus. In some countries, the vehicle might use the LDV brand, as happens with other Maxus vehicles. A concept version, also called D90, was revealed at the 2016 Beijing motor show. The production version followed one year later at April's Auto Shanghai.

The Wuxi plant which SAIC inherited when it took over Nanjing Auto is the manufacturing base for many of the Maxus & LDV brands' models. D90 series production should start in September, with the model due to have a seven-year build programme.

One of the division's existing vehicles is the T60, a pick-up. It had its world premiere at November 2016's Guangzhou motor show and production started four months later. In export markets - Australia is one that SAIC has named - the T60 is intended to be a rival for the Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200/Triton.

An SUV derivative in the style of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is due to follow later, as is a T60 van. There should also be an electric T60 for the Chinese market. The life cycle of the T60 and its other ladder frame chassis derivatives should last between seven and nine years.

The G10, a large minivan, has been in production since February 2014 so it should be facelifted within the next 6-12 months. The Maxus G10 concept showed the public that SAIC was planning to build such a vehicle with this prototype displayed at April 2013's Shanghai motor show. Both 224hp 2.0-litre turbo and 143hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engines are available. The architecture is General Motors' CSV platform which goes back more than 20 years. SAIC will likely replace the G10 in 2022.

The EG10 recently went on sale in China. It is a plug-in version of the G10. A prototype was shown as long ago as June 2015 but limited scale production was delayed several times. SAIC builds the EG10 on the same line as the petrol-engined G10 variants. In certain European markets, the EG10 will also soon be available badged as the EV80. The range is claimed to be 200km (125 miles). Only a small number of vans will be exported to EU countries but SAIC intends to roll out the Maxus brand to many more markets from 2019 and to have a broad line-up of LCVs by then.

Other future Group manufacturing trends

The combined sales volume of Roewe and MG should for the first time reach the half million mark in 2017 if SAIC's own forecasts turn out to be accurate. So far, things are close to being on track. The only problem could be building enough vehicles to keep up with demand. 

SAIC is planning to open a further production plant for its own brand models in the city of Zhengzhou. The Henan province factory is on schedule to come on stream by year-end. It will have an initial capacity of 400,000 vehicles per annum, though the company is said to be planning to take its time to reach that level.

The move into China's north will give SAIC a better geographic spread: MG and Roewe models are manufactured at plants in the firm's home city of Shanghai as well as in Nanjing. The main reason for the expansion is manufacturing output from existing facilities reaching capacity. This is said to be a combined 400,000 passenger vehicles. The forthcoming additional Chinese plant will supplement another facility in Thailand as well as GM's former Halol factory or else a fresh factory elsewhere in India.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

Additional data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans, such as code names, production plants and expected annual build, are available in PLDB from QUBE.

The next manufacturer for just-auto's in-depth examination of current and future models will be Tata Motors. Featured brands will be Tata, TaMo, Jaguar and Land Rover.

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