Monday, 23 April 2007

Shanghai Auto Show 2007




The preparation for this year’s motor show was way behind plan. After the exhaustive work to get everything finished in time for the grand factory opening and NAC’s 60th Birthday celebrations – the Shanghai Motor Show had crept up on us fast. This would be the first public display of our vehicles – vehicles that despite some recent press reports had been built at the new factory, with localized parts and Chinese labor. In fact if anyone had looked close enough at the vehicles they would have noticed that they were far from being ready for public sale. We still had to grain many of the interior plastic parts, and the sunroof displayed on the MG7L was the first time we had ever fitted this part from the new supplier. Of course some of the parts on the vehicle had been stock items from the old MG-Rover days, but the majority (80%+) had been from re-sourced supply, most noticeably the Powertrain and the Body itself.

The big problem was that there was no time to build new cars for the show. It may shock some people, but the cars for a show are normally prepared 3-6 months before, with hand picked parts, they are assembled down special facilities, painted and re-painted several times, and basically given the ‘supermodel’ airbrush treatment.
After various meetings we agreed on a plan, and squeezed the show layout and vehicle designation plan from the Sales and Marketing team. Like always, marketing had some grand ideas of hanging vehicles upside down using sky hooks! We finally agreed on the vehicle selection. The biggest challenge was that they wanted one of the vehicles – an MGTF to be raised onto a glass bridge, which the public could walk underneath. Now I don’t know how many people had been unfortunate enough to see the underside of a vehicle – but it’s not a pretty sight. This is where with the right amount of advance planning; we would have ensured the underside of the car was treated as an A’ class surface, and not built to withstand the normal abuse of driving 100,000km’s in wind, snow, ice, stones, and salt! It was it was a mess of anti-corrosion protection. We had to drain the entire cars fluids, strip every pipe, tube, hose, cable, rod and linkage away, clean the entire surface down and re-spray the vehicle. Whilst the result wasn’t perfect, it was far better than I had expected when I saw the car on the ramp for the first time.

I had been asked to give a speech at our press conference to open the show, a daunting prospect. Especially as it would be in front of an audience full of motoring journalists, and a sea of automotive royalty from around the world. I remember how impressed I was whilst listening to Ian Robertson’s speech at the Beijing Show last year. Ian was my first MD, when I started out at Land Rover many years earlier; you might say he gave me my first break! Ian was one of those people who made you sit up straight when he walked in to the room; he had an aura of power and control around him. I went to speak to him in Beijing, and remember babbling away nervously! Not something that usually affects me – but I felt like I was talking to an old headmaster, despite Ian remembering me – I’m sure our encounter didn’t raise my prospects of a position with Roll’s Royce anytime in the near future!

I visited the stand on the evening before the opening, and was informed by Mr Yu, that they wanted me to translate his speech the next day, I was given several thousand words and a few hours to decipher the ‘Chinglish’ document. On top of this I was still required to drive the main car onto the turntable at the center of the stand. The car itself was a Long Wheel Base MG7, hidden behind a frosted glass wall, it would rotate 90 degree’s to reveal the car, I would then drive just 20 feet or so, onto the main stage turntable – well at least that was the plan!

A restless evening preceded the great day, and I finished the speech at the 6am breakfast buffet. Everything was set, the lights the PA system, the video screens, even the cars looked fantastic. We had prime position in Hall 4, nestled between Roll’s Royce, BMW and Lexus and Toyota. Our stand was larger than the R&R and Lexus stands, and looked much more vibrant than the rest. NAC MG would hold the first Press conference of the day – so an audience was guaranteed.
A nervous couple of hours followed, and the show began. The usual funky electric violin concerto by sexy Chinese violinists, a very strange display of dancing by people dressed in Charles 1st regalia - bizarre was an understatement. Then the speech’s! First Me and the company’s president would do a double act, the ‘same’ speech in Chinese and English, I had done the best I could with translating the speech, but even my talents couldn’t extend into making it earth shattering.

Afterwards I dashed around the back of the stage, and climbed into the highly polished car, started her up, slipped it into gear and released the handbrake. The show officials would only allow a teacup of fuel, and my biggest fear was running out half way! I would have been thankfully accepted that result over what really happened. The Vice-Governor of Jiangsu Province made a short speech and then introduced me, the turntable started to revolve into position………….then stopped! I looked over to the stage director and he pleaded with me to drive, I had 2 inch’s of clearance either side of the car and a large glass wall blocked my direct line! Stupidly I thought it was worth a go! I swung the car to the left and cleared the wall at the front of the vehicle, as I swung it back I knew I would hit the wall with the rear of the car, I clipped the stage lights and the edge of the glass wall with the rear wheel, and drove it onto the main stage. It was only afterwards when onlooker’s told me just how close I had come to the front wheel falling off the stage – I realized just how close I had been to a spectacular disaster.






The rest of the show went without a hitch, and the stand remained full for the entire day.
Which was more than can be said for the other stands, for an opening day the whole show seemed a little bit quiet, maybe this was something to do with the Beijing show being held just 6 months before. Several UK journalists told me that in there editors had had there fill of Chinese car news, since the coverage of our launch back in March, whatever the reason we were glad to see the other stands struggling whilst ours attracted an enormous amount of attention.

16 comments:

Денис said...

Hellow!!!
I'm from Russia and I really wanted to by new MG 7.Tell me please when new MG cars will be export in Russia ?And what about quality ?
Best regards , Dmitry.

Arnaud said...

Hi Paul
I'm write from Paris, France.
During some years, i am very passionate from MG Rover s' cars
I am vey happy to see MG is not dead.
Tell me please when new MG cars will be export in Europe ?
Best regards
Arnaud

Tiago said...

Good afternoon from Portugal!

I'm a huge MG fan and i would love to buy a brand new MG TF soon.
Could you please tell me when will we see MG's in Portugal again?

Best Regards,
Tiago Bueso

Jack Yan said...

Paul, I am glad you have taken the time to give us an insider’s view. I think it’s vital to marketing in the 2000s, and this will in some small way help with the MG brand’s relaunch abroad.

Arnaud said...

I hope to see again the beautifull 75 Coupé oups ... MG7 Coupé

Arnaud said...

News from Uk, Nanjing will relaunch the MG3 and funny streetwise
http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/autoexpressnews/208341/nanjing_plans_to_revive_streetwise.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.chinacartimes.com/2007/04/26/are-mg-streetwise/

Byron said...

Hi paul thanks for taking out so much time to write your blog's it's good to get some information from inside the factory in china,from what we have seen back in the uk the MG's are looking good and most MG owner's are desperate for them to come back to the uk and europe,are there any plans to get the Zed range complete with talk of an MG3 and we have seen the MG7 but nothing of the former ZS is there going to be a replacement model i hope so as my 180 is 4 year old now but it's worth it's weight in good.

Keep up the good work paul.
Byron from south wales,uk

Ash said...

Paul,

How would one go about contacting you for an interview ?

I'd be interested in talking to you about your work in Nanjing MG

Im up in Qingdao but will be heading down to Shanghai a few times over the coming weeks. Send me an email if possible ash@chinacartimes.com

P.S. I never posted that Streetwise thing on here. Must have been a China Car Times fan.

Anonymous said...

Paul

Please do something about that awful front bumper fit on the mk2 75- dont let it ruin the look of the new cars.

Best Wishes
James

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to MG's revival in mainland Europe.

Daniel (Spain)

MG Arnaud said...

Paul,

First thank you for making this blog.

As the other Arnaud mentioned we are many enthusiasts in Europe and in France waiting for more information on the return of MG. I guess there are still some discussions going on but any information would be great so we can feel we are part of the story.

On a side note as you have already done for another enthusiast website we would be interested for a short interview. Our community is the largest french speaking MG dedicated website ( http://www.mgcontact.eu )
Contact : mgcontact@free.fr

Brgds

Arnaud

Dave Williams said...

Paul

Thank you for taking the time to write such a fascinating blog.

Steve Cropley mentioned your site in this week's Autocar, that is how I heard about it.

I look forward to returning to your site in future.

Regards,
Dave
North West England

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
I arrived here via Steve Cropley's report in last week's Autocar mag.

In 2003 I bought a new MG ZT+160 (1.8T) and in 2005 upgraded to a new, black customised ZT 190 (2.5 V6) shortly after the announcement of the closure of MG-Rover at Longbridge...and now I am hooked..an enthusiast with a passion to see MG's ASPIRE TO WHAT THEY COULD BE!

The ZT (err MG 7!) is one of the best cars I've driven in 27 years and I desperately look forward to test driving the MG 7. Could I book that now please (serious!). Keep up the good work Paul - may the MG force be with you and the future of MG...

Michael
Southern England
UK

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Anonymous said...

I'm from America and am a MG fanatic we all have the money and we are still waiting for MG to import their cars here so all we do is dream and look at pictures of MG's at the Shanghai autoshow please hurry up and ship your cars here I'm pretty sure you'll have good sales here like Land Rover, Jaguar, and Lotus.