The last twelve months have been rather challenging for the auto industry.
Disruption to global supply chains have meant that local car brands haven’t been able to get enough supply to meet demand – and demand’s been intense. With The Spicy Cough continuing to loom large, Australians have been ditching public transport in droves and buying cars instead, the upshot being that car dealerships are incredibly low on stock and the used car market is going absolutely ballistic.
On top of all this, the Australian automotive landscape is undergoing dramatic changes. With iconic Aussie brand Holden all but shut up shop and electric cars becoming more and more common on our roads, it’s clear that we’re at a turning point – a point hammered home by some telling new sales statistics.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has just released their VFACTS report for February 2021, which reveals that Chinese brand MG has finally broken through into the list of top 10 auto brands for new car sales in Australia, leapfrogging brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Volkswagen to take eighth position overall, a growth of +159.4% over this time last year. This comes off the back of a stellar 2020, which saw the brand record an over +83% growth in sales.
“Of course, we’re only two months into what is a bounce-back year from the pandemic-crippled market in 2020, but MG’s rise through the ranks has been recorded on a monthly basis for a couple of years now, making it no overnight sensation,” Carsales Business relates.
It’s astonishing news for a brand that’s long been considered somewhat of a joke or even actively despised.
Founded in 1924 in Oxford, England, the MG brand has had a checkered history and a number of owners over the last century. While the brand is famous for sporting models like the MGB and the Midget, for most of its existence the MG name has been used to denote sporty versions of cars produced by other British manufacturers, such as the Austin Metro and the Rover 75, rather than a marque in its own right.
British mass-market cars have long had a (well-deserved) reputation for being poorly built and unreliable, and while the MG brand is remembered more fondly than most, the negative reputation still lingers. Since 2005, however, the MG brand has been owned by Chinese automaker SAIC: modern MGs have little in common with the British models of old except for the badge, and MG is now positioned as a somewhat sporty, export-oriented, budget car brand.
Yet Chinese cars have long had a reputation for being poorly built and unreliable, too – derided as ‘Beijing billycarts’; looked upon with suspicion and even outright hatred among some Australian car buyers (with a degree of racism informing this prejudice, it must be said). But modern MGs are actually remarkably well-made cars, with their continued success proof positive that the Chinese auto industry has made great strides in recent years.
It’s a story we’ve seen many times before. Post-WWII, Japanese cars were considered inferior, then they slowly became popular thanks to their low prices and quality construction, and now Japanese brands like Honda and Mitsubishi are some of the world’s largest.
Speaking of Korean cars, another February 2021 new car sales success story has been Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury marque, which recorded a whopping +460% growth in sales compared to February 2020 – a real wake-up call for Japanese and European luxury brands.
Other big winners include Toyota, Australia’s best-selling car brand staying on top with 18,375 sales (+3.9%) and a crushing 21.9% share of the entire market; Bentley, the luxury British marque recording a surprising +42.9% growth in sales; and Škoda, whose healthy +41.8% growth reflects how Australians are starting to warm to the once-overlooked Czech brand.
Will MG – and other Chinese brands – continue to rise the ranks in the Australian car world, or will the Japanese and South Korean brands fight back? Only time will tell. For now, at least, we just hope more new cars start arriving in the country soon. The used car market’s just getting silly.