David Knowles has been following progress of this Baojun-derived MG
The Baojun 530, like the MG Hector it has spawned, is a substantial five-seater SUV, with a seven-seater version feasible too.
We now know the name of the new model which is to form the start of SAIC’s drive to enter the Indian market, and it appears MG Motor India has gone out on a limb with a slightly eccentric choice for its first new vehicle that will be in Indian show-rooms later this year – the Indian media had suggested the new car would be called the MG Gloster, but we now know the unique-to-India MG will be the Hector.
Choosing a name for a high-volume product which is not already the subject of existing copyright, even in a field that is different to the one being targeted, is an increasingly difficult task in the modern world. This is one obvious reason why there are many slightly oddball made-up names or ones where the maker’s justification for the choice seems barely credible. How else to explain names like Mokka or Tempra?
Using English words can also be a risky prospect if the product is to be sold in a market where the local populace may have a particular opinion on the name which might not necessarily align with the creator’s intention. A good example of this is the Nissan Cedric, a name which evidently seemed sensible to the company who supposedly saw the name Cedric as a popular choice derived from that of the eponymous hero of the book Little Lord Fauntleroy, a work of fiction which had become popular in Japan. Either the good people at Nissan HQ were nonplussed when much of the English-speaking world guffawed at their name choice, or equally possible they did not really care because their marketing ambitions were domestically-focused in a country where the audience were less likely to laugh.
In choosing the name Hector, MG Motor India cite the noble association with Greek mythology, Hector of Troy being a figure from the Trojan War and his name standing for ‘everything strong, bold yet trustworthy and dependable’ as MG Motor India’s press release would have us think. Clutching at straws, the company also linked the name to a little-known biplane which was going out of service in the RAF long before India achieved independence 72 years ago. To some Britons, however, their first association with the Hector name will be the fondly remembered Hector’s House, a children’s television series using hand puppets which, like the better-known Magic Roundabout, was a French production re-voiced for a British audience which used to be a staple of British TV tea-times in the 1960s and 1970s. Whether or not MG Motor India plans to repeat this process in future and choose names for other models which also draw on Greek mythology is something that remains to been seen.
Not that we are likely to see any MG Hectors in the UK. This new model is derived from an existing SUV that is already sold in China (and Indonesia) as part of a jointly developed GM-SAIC family of models mainly under the popular Baojun brand. The Baojun 530, on which the new MG Hector is closely based, arrived on the Chinese market in March last year, with an improved 2019 model introduced in November. Aiming to appeal to Chinese consumer tastes, the Baojun 530 features some special design features such as a large interior graphic display (à la Tesla) and slim headlamps with what the maker has called Future Eye graphics – which some may contrast with the so-called London Eye lamps seen on the MG models jointly designed in Birmingham and Shanghai.
Whilst the MG Hector is said to have been subjected to a dab or two of the MG design brush, it seems likely that its origins in an SAIC-GM styled donor will remain fairly obvious. As strong partners, the combined SAIC-GM business is scheduled to see some 20 new product launches in 2019, covering the popular Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet brands alongside the locally created Baojun and Wuling badges.
Although the story of MG and Roewe sales in China has been an impressive track record of growth in a stagnating market, SAIC still makes the lion’s share of domestic sales through its GM and VW joint ventures, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. However, although Baojun saw an impressive enough sales tally of 207,794 vehicles in 2018 Q4, this was nevertheless a whopping 41% drop on the 356,422 sold in 2017 Q4.
Therefore for SAIC-GM, the arrival of the MG Hector during 2019 cannot come too soon; the model may be destined for a 75% overall Indian local value content and the Hector is being built in a former GM Indian plant in Halol, Gujarat, but it will undoubtedly still rely on many Chinese sourced components which will clearly aid future Baojun economies of scale. Whether the Hector will prove sufficiently attractive to Indian consumers to tempt them from the opposition has obviously yet to be seen; making the car sufficiently ‘MG’ in character, whatever that means nowadays, is just part of the challenge. MG Motor India will no doubt hope their Hector proves to be the hero that the name implies...
A side-view teaser of the MG Hector... compare this with the red Baojun 530.