Morris Garages used to be a proud British brand associated with iconic roadsters and sports cars such as the Midget, MGA, MGB and more recently the MGF.
Financial trouble, however, saw it taken over by Chinese auto giant SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) in 2005 and since then it churned out anything from SUVs to crossovers to electric cars.
But a commercial vehicle and a bakkie wearing the MG badge? Surely, that is close to sacrilege for the hallowed brand with a proud tradition? William Morris, founder of the marque, must be turning in his grave.
Yet, this is exactly what happened last week when MG revealed the brand’s first-ever pickup truck, the Extender…
To add insult to injury, the marque’s Chinese owners displayed the MG V80, an 11-seater passenger van based on the Maxus V80 commercial van, at the 40th Bangkok Motor Show.
Even worse, the new MG bakkie, like the V80, is also based on a Maxus product. Yes, the Extender is a badge-engineered version of the Maxus T70 pickup; an evolution of the T60 model with bigger wheels and tyres, updated exterior styling and uprated technology first shown at the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this year.
More powerful than a Raptor
The T70, sporting a grille with prominent Maxus lettering, is the SAIC brand’s competitor for the Ford Ranger Raptor. Available with a choice of 2-litre turbodiesel engines, the older SAIC-developed 20L4E mill is good for 157kW and 350Nm of torque and the newly developed SC230M diesel engine available with either one or two turbochargers.
The powerful twin-turbo version of this engine develops 160 kW – making it more powerful than the Ford Ranger Raptor – and 480Nm of torque, somewhat less than the 500 Nm of twisting force produced by the Ranger motor.
However, is seems the MG-badged version will only (initially, at least) be available with the single-turbo engine developing 120 kW and 375 Nm of torque, coupled to either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto transmission with torque converter.
The MG bakkie, available in double cab and crew cab (called Giant Cab) format, is also earmarked for other markets, including Indonesia and the Philippines, at prices ranging from around R250 000 to just over R500 000 for the top double cab model with auto transmission and four-wheel drivetrain.
Is there any chance that this bakkie will make it to South Africa? Well, Maxus and MG products were available here for a short while through the CMH company Mandarin Motors but this came to an end in 2016.
With other Chinese manufacturers such as GWM, JMC, BAIC and BAW showing renewed interest in the local bakkie market SAIC may consider a re-entry when trading conditions improve but this will probably be with Maxus branded products.