Morris Garages, the iconic British brand owned by China’s SAIC Motor Corp. Ltd, marked its debut in the country on Thursday with the launch of Hector, a sport utility vehicle (SUV).
The SUV will come with the options of a petrol or diesel engine and will have a host of features as well as a comprehensive after-sales package as part of an aggressive attempt by Morris Garages, or MG, to challenge existing players such as Hyundai Motor Co., Tata Motors Ltd, and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. South Korea’s Kia Motors and Groupe PSA have also decided to use SUVs to make a mark in this intensely competitive market.
The Hector has a starting price of ₹12.18 lakh for the base petrol model, extending to ₹16.88 lakh for the top-end diesel version.
The latest entrant in the domestic automobile market will offer its so-called MG Shield after-sales package to draw customers. It includes a warranty for unlimited kilometres for five years along with round-the-clock roadside assistance without any additional labour charges. The offering reflects MG’s aim to gain a foothold in this market where several global brands have failed to make a strong presence because of inadequate customer services.
“Hector offers prepaid maintenance plans starting as low as ₹8,000 for the first three years. Its total cost of ownership is the lowest in the segment starting at 45 paise per km for the petrol version and 49 paise per km for the diesel version," said MG Motor India Pvt. Ltd.
The Hector will compete with vehicles such as Tata’s Harrier and Mahindra’s XUV 500. The decision to launch an SUV as its first vehicle will allow the company to avoid competition from the top two carmakers, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hyundai Motor India Ltd.
Kia is also set to launch its Seltos SUV shortly, while Groupe PSA of France will use the Citreon brand to enter the Indian market with a SUV as its first product. This will help both also avoid competing with Maruti and Hyundai, which dominate the crowded small car segment where margins are comparatively much lower than SUVs or sedans.
To ensure that customers get a good resale value for their vehicle, MG Motor has tied up with automotive portal CarDekho, which will buy back Hector at a residual value of 60% after three years of ownership. Most vehicle makers barring the top three, do not enjoy healthy resale value of products and MG Motor will try to gain the confidence of its customers by ensuring a buy back.
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Rajeev Chaba, president and managing director, MG Motor India, said the MG Shield after-sales package is aimed at providing complete assurance to customers.
“With the very distinctive design that also packs in safety, best-in-class features and competitive pricing, Hector will make an impact with buyers who are looking for something very different from the normal array of cars," he said.
The company has so far received more than 10,000 customer bookings for the Hector in 23 days since pre-orders began on 4 June, said Chaba.
SAIC plans to introduce an electric vehicle in India in the next year. The vehicle will be assembled at its factory in Halol in Gujarat. The plant has a capacity of 84,000 vehicles a year, which is modest compared with the 300,000 units annual capacity of Kia Motors’ plant in Andhra Pradesh.