MG V’s the other MG: In other words, SAIC V’s Riley
Published July 6, 2008 (Updated: July 6, 2008)
Riley is a quint essential British fellow who claims to own the rights to the MG brand, he is currently making the legendary MG SV from scratch (complete with a 168,000USD price tag), on the other hand we have the multi billion RMB Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation who also say they own the rights to the MG brand.
A nail in the coffin for the Chinese MG brand? Obviously, the answer to that is a stern no, but another amusing twist and turn in the lifetime soap opera that has become MG.
The Financial Times gives us the lowdown:
A descendant of an English motoring dynasty is taking on Chinas largest carmaker in a battle over one of Britains iconic brands the MG sportscar.
The Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation , the Chinese manufacturer that acquired the MG assets through a merger last year, has invested tens of millions of pounds in restarting production at the former MG Rover factory in Longbridge, Birmingham.
It has brought workers and hope back to a plant that lost more than 6,000 jobs when MG Rover went bankrupt.
SAICs debut model, the two-seater MG TF roadster, is expected to be delivered to UK showrooms in September.
A hitch has emerged, however, in the form of William Riley, a motoring enthusiast and descendant of the founders of the famous Riley car marque.
Mr Riley claims that he owns the rights to produce the MG X Power, a limited edition handmade racing coupe that has an 85,000 ($168,000) price tag.
The dispute, which has rumbled on quietly for the past year, has recently shifted up a gear. Mr Riley has tried to revoke 32 other MG trademarks held by Nanjing Automotive Corporation, which merged with SAIC in 2007.
Now the UK Intellectual Property Office is being asked to weigh in on who owns the rights to the MG name in the UK.
It is not the first time the brands Chinese owners have been hit with a trademark claim.
In 2006 the administrators of MG Rovers Dutch subsidiary raised concerns about their right to use the MG marque in Europe. That issue has since been settled amicably.
NAC bought MGs assets for 53m in 2005 and shipped most of its plant to Nanjing in eastern China. It has since embarked on an ambitious plan to launch the brand not just in Europe, where the car has long had a passionate following, but also in China.
The TF two-seater is expected to retail for 16,400 in the UK through a network of about 50 dealers. Some 300 orders have been taken for a limited edition launch model.
Mr Rileys X-Power, by contrast, is put together from thousands of leftover parts and a chassis that he imported from Italy. He acquired the parts in 2007 from the liquidators of one of the companies in the MG Rover Group.
The carbon-bodied supercar he has designed has a 540bhp Ford V-8 engine and an estimated top speed of more than 200mph.
Mr Riley wants to produce five or six cars per month, he says, aimed at British motoring enthusiasts.
There is scepticism in the market about whether he can set up an operation that will produce that many units a year.
This is my lifelong passion, he said this week. A Toronto-based stockbroker has placed the first order for a bespoke 87,000 version of the X-Power, according to Mr Riley. The question is whether there will be an MG badge on it.
Mr Riley contends that he legally acquired the intellectual property rights to the MG X-Power from PwC, the liquidators of MG Sports & Racing, and is entitled to use the name.
His cars would carry a silver and green MG X-Power logo, as opposed to the brown and white of the classic MG badge.
That does not sit well with the Chinese, who claim that any and all X-Power trademarks had been transferred to NAC long before Mr Riley came into the picture.
They say his asset sale agreement specifies that buying the X-Power parts did not confer any licence to use the words MG or Rover.
NAC says it intends to defend its right to the brand vigorously.
Until a settlement, or a decision by the Intellectual Property Office, consumers who have waited more than three years to get their hands on an MG may have two very different choices.