Some MG dealers are already taking deposits for the forthcoming Cyberster electric sports car – even though the price and date for its arrival have yet to be released.
The pure electric sports car – which will have up to 500bhp and be able to hit 60mph in 3.1 seconds when it arrives some time next year – is likely to cost between £50-60k.
MG commercial director Guy Pigounakis told Car Dealer that some dealers are already taking deposits, but so far there are no official orders being taken for the car.
‘It’s proving very popular and some dealers are taking their own deposits,’ he said.
‘We don’t yet know when it will arrive or the exact price but we are hopeful we’ll see it in the spring next year.
’Dealers are building their own order banks so when we release allocation their customers can take those places in the queue.
‘The dealer network is incredibly excited about its arrival.’
Pigounakis is unsure of how many Cybersters MG will sell, explaining it could be anywhere between ‘1,000 or 3,000’ a year.
‘We won’t be pushing sales as we don’t know how many we will get,’ he said.
‘But the car will help us to slightly reposition the brand as an affordable, good-value yet exciting car manufacturer.
‘We’re aiming for the niche sector that MG used to occupy. Cars like the MG ZS 180 were very popular models among a certain sort of buyer and we want to recreate that.’
The Cyberster is a dramatic new model for MG and will see dealer showrooms updated across the country to offer the different clientele the car is set to attract a ‘special experience’.
Car Dealer was shown a prototype of the car at the brand’s Marylebone, London, showroom (pictured above) yesterday and it was incredibly impressive. The styling is more striking in the metal than pictures and the design a huge step forward for the brand.
In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with Car Dealer at the firm’s head office, Pigounakis also talked about agency sales, the new model range and his ambitions for the brand in the future.
With an influx of new Chinese brands heading to the UK, the MG chief says he thinks the firm is well positioned to grow its market share.
‘There are lots of Chinese brands coming to these shores, but we are already very well established and have a brand that people recognise,’ he said.
Pigounakis said he thinks firms such as BYD, Chery and Ora will struggle to gain market share like MG has as buyers simply ‘don’t know who they are’.
‘Unless they open up a magazine and see an advert for them, why would a car buyer know anything about these brands? It’s going to be an uphill struggle for them,’ said the MG boss.
Pigounakis worked for the car maker back in the MG Rover days and has also had stints at Hyundai and the car dealer group Richmond.
He says his experience in the car industry has helped him have frank conversations with dealers who are looking to invest in MG, and said he is now oversubscribed for the open points the firm has.
Currently the brand has 156 dealerships across the UK – up 12 in the past year – but Pigounakis says there will be some change in numbers over the coming months.
‘Several are on notice periods – mostly through their choice not ours – because we have grown and volumes have risen and some dealers are just not set up to cope with that,’ he explained.
MG sold 31,000 cars in 2020, 50,000 last year and is on target to sell 75,000-80,000 this year.
‘Not all our partners were geared up for the requirements in terms of cash flow and space that these volumes require, so they’ve given us notice,’ added Pigounakis.
But there are plenty of others to fill the gaps. Pigounakis said he had already had conversations with Jaguar dealers who are set to lose their franchise as part of the luxury car maker’s reduced network plans.
He said some Mercedes dealers were also looking to add MG alongside the premium brand as sales volumes have dipped following the German firm’s switch to agency sales.
One Vertu Mercedes showroom in Beaconsfield is already running MG alongside the premium car maker and Pigounakis said he was in talks with two other Mercedes dealers to do the same.
‘We were surprised how receptive Mercedes was,’ said Pigounakis. He wouldn’t be drawn on whether it had been a similar response from JLR.
‘We don’t ask too much of our dealers and are happy to have it placed alongside other brands,’ he added.
‘In fact, it works really well for us because when customers see our product alongside rivals they often buy ours.’
Pigounakis explained the brand was set to refresh its entire model range in the next 12 months and would soon be rolling out the X-Power high-performance model of the MG4.
‘Sales success is generally driven by new products and we have a lot coming,’ he added.
He said an MG3 hybrid will arrive next year as well as new ZS and HS models. But he added that as much as he’d like to bring the MG7 to the UK, the petrol-only model won’t make it here.
‘There just isn’t a market for large petrol saloons outside of the German brands,’ he said.
Pigounakis says agency sales have helped MG – thanks mostly to dealers coming to the Chinese car maker from brands planning to introduce it.
‘Make no mistake: agency sales are a land grab of margin,’ he said.
‘I don’t think car manufacturers have really thought about quite what is involved in retailing these cars and dealing with part-exchanges and everything that comes with being a retailer.
‘There’s a reason dealers are good at what they do.’
There had been talk from MG of selling the new Cyberster via an agency sales-style agreement, but Pigounakis said the firm was rethinking this.
‘We might offer it online but it will be sold predominantly by dealers,’ he said.
‘People don’t want to buy cars online. It’s a tiny proportion of the market and just isn’t something that will grow to any great extent.
‘It happened during lockdown because it had to, but when showrooms opened again it turned off like a switch.
‘I truly believe people want to buy from people in dealerships and actually a lot of sales happen because of a dealer, not because of the brand they’re selling.’
Pigounakis said its successful dealers – the likes of Richmond and Luscombe’s – were prime examples of that.
The commercial director is now focused on positioning the brand as a ‘good value’ car maker.
‘We don’t want to be cheap, we want to be good value with lots of options and a sporty edge,’ he told Car Dealer.
‘We want our cars to be desirable, and the X-Power models and Cyberster will help with that.’
He also thinks Cyberster will bring in a lot of new buyers to the MG brand and says the firm needs to capitalise on that.
‘The first buyers will be MG fans who have been waiting years for a new MG sports car,’ he added.
‘But after that, the buyers will be different. There is nothing else like the Cyberster in the market. There simply are no small electric sports cars out there, so that will give us a big opportunity.
‘We’ve been accused of underpricing it, but it will be £50-£60k at today’s prices, adjusted for when it arrives next year, which feels right.
‘Showrooms will need to be upgraded to have a special area for customers buying the Cyberster but we won’t be too strict about that. We just want buyers of the car to have a special experience.’
Modern-day 6R4 heads to Goodwood
MG will showcase a spiritual successor to the Metro 6R4 at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed as it ramps up its sporting credentials.
The race car will be based on the forthcoming X-Power MG4 with no modifications to the already uprated electric hatchback.
But Pigounakis told Car Dealer that it will certainly look the part. Race specialists RML, which built similar one-offs such as the Nissan Juke-R, will be building the vehicle.
‘It will be a modern-day interpretation of the 6R4,’ he said. ‘It will drive up the hill at Goodwood alongside the Cyberster electric sports car.
‘It will have the same motors and batteries as the X-Power MG4 due in the summer, but it will look wildly different.’