Thursday, 26 July 2007

ROEWE 750 Vs MG7?

Can you guess what the most over asked question I get is?

Well you would be wrong is you said any of the following:

When will the MG7 be on sale in China?
Will we build MG7’s at Longbridge?
What are the differences working for Chinese management Vs Western management?
Can Chinese built cars be as safe as European built cars?
How much do you pay the workers in Nanjing?
Is there really a market for the MGTF in China?
Did I know that I looked like Kevin Howe when I grow my Goatee?
Kevins the one on the right!

Or even do I want to buy a DVD, watch or a handbag? (Chinese Joke!)

The most frequently asked question is “What do I think of the Roewe 750?”

My answer is always the same, I think SAIC, and the boy’s (and girls) at Ricardo 2010 have done a magnificent job. Everybody raves on about how we at NAC moved 20,000 tones of equipment, built an 800,000 sq meter factory, re-sourced over 3500 parts and brought 3 car models into production in around 18 months, but when I look at what they have done – even I have to bow down to their achievements.

I haven’t been close enough to the project (ROEWE) to get all of my facts correct, but from what little I know, this is what they have managed to achieve in the last couple of years:

· Re-Design the complete vehicle (to the layman the vehicle may not be visually so different, but the CAD work that must have been done to incorporate the new rear end, and ensure all of the surfaces were correct for producing new press tools must have been an immense task).

· Designing, engineering and developing the press & BIW tooling from scratch is an enormous feat of engineering, quality and manufacturing development. This work would normally take several years, and a vast number of experienced engineers. I have to admit the results are amazing. The fact that they have stretched the vehicle by 100mm and that all of the doors, boot and bonnet fit nicely is testament to the hard work carried out, in such a short space of time.

· When it came to finding and sourcing all of the parts that go together to make vehicle, SAIC had probably a more difficult proposition than we did. NAC had ‘acquired’ a vast proportion of the tooling required to make the parts that go together to create a modern vehicle, whereas SAIC just had some parts, various drawings, and in some cases – nothing at all. Having done some of this work myself – I know how difficult it must have been to find suppliers, design and develop tooling, mature the parts for quality and finally assemble everything together.

· ROEWE have done an incredible marketing job, I remember how far my jaw dropped when I arrived at the 2006 Beijing Motor Show, and saw that ROEWE hoardings that circled the car parks around the airport, and then again as I sat near the Bund in Shanghai, and watched the ferry’s go up and down the Hung Pu river with ROEWE commercials being beamed out across one of the most famous skylines in the world.

I am sure they have achieved much more (including the development of various new engines, platforms and the vehicles, that my spy’s at the company elude to!). But to keep the conversation on track, I will only comment about 750.

When asked about competition, I also believe that ROEWE have done NAC a great favor by changing the vehicle enough to ensure that they are as much a competitor, as a VW Passat, an Audi A4 or Honda Prelude. The situation would be very different if they had decided to keep the car as the original – then we would truly have 2 identical vehicles on sale, with only different badges to choose between them, as it it’s - the rear end changes, and the significant interior changes are enough to differentiate between the two cars.

So with this in mind I can judge the quality based upon the vehicle in the market place, and not only as a competitor to the MG7. From a purely aesthetic view of the vehicle I think the 750 certainly has a place on the roads of Shanghai and Beijing, its stately presence stands out from the acres of A4’s, Passats and Buick Regals. The vehicle looks masculine and purposeful, as well as very classy.

The Interior is refined and modern, yes it has lost some of the ‘Britishness’ that made the Rover 75 so great, but I can see what they have done, and I like the results.
Build quality is fair to good, but what amazed me was the fact that they hadn’t resolved some of the original design quality concerns from the Rover 75, the bumper to bonnet to fender and head light fit, the door seals and interior trim fitment concerns, all remain – perhaps as testament to the original vehicle?

After Beijing I wrote a report for the senior management team at NAC MG about the quality of the ROEWE 750, based upon viewing several vehicles at the motor show – I said then, that we didn’t have much to worry about. The show cars, they were appalling.

My guess was that they were rushed into displaying the cars prematurely; rumor has it that SAIC had used their corporation strength to delay the show several months, to the anger of everyone other manufacturer, and under pressure they couldn’t delay any longer.

I had the opportunity to review a newer vehicle last week, and was pleasantly surprised by how much it had improved, yes it still had the original design issues, but at least the company hadnt stood still over the last 9 months, and the car I saw was much better than those in Beijing.

So to summarize, I see the ROEWE 750 as much a competitor as any other vehicle in the same class, and that it isn’t any better or any worse than an MG7 – its just different. Some people will go for the original British interior and exterior styling of the MG7, whereas others will prefer the fashionable exterior and interior changes of the ROEWE 750. The market in China is big enough to find customers for both tastes.

Oh but one thing I have to say before finally closing the book on this discussion – that badge! I am sorry, despite the changes, ‘improvements’ and revisions to the vehicle – I couldn’t live with the badge staring at me from the steering wheel every day. Perhaps a nice Austin or even a ambassador badge to replace it? Something to think about as both NAC and SAIC reportedly head towards a closer working relationship!

Just Added a Poll to the BLOG - Please Vote, I would be interested in your opinions.


Ross Armstrong said...

I like what Roewe have done. However the feats of achievement become a little less impressive when you realise that the MGR and Ricardo engineers were working with SAIC to produce the specification to satisfy their requirements, pretty much right from the start. Much of the work had already been done. Secondly, the Rover 75, was already sound base to start off with, and the experience used to produce the limousine (LWB) version also paid off. Thirdly, the panel gap fit on the R75 was truly atrocious, as my tutors David Arbuckle and David Jones can testify - They were severely costed down during development of the facelifts, which meant the teams didn't have enough money to iron out all of the faults. Ricardo and indeed NAC-MG appear to have had the foresight to iron out these faults. A company can make a car solid, or make it rubbish.. either way, their reputations will follow them.. so far I think SAIC will do just find, NAC has yet to be proven. Good luck with everything.

Anonymous said...

wow nice site! where did you find that MG plant picture in your banner! I have never seen it. hope you can post more pics like that!

thanks and also check out Chinese Car Forums since you will probably be able to contribute to it lots


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