MG Motor (MG), which has been immune to the ongoing slowdown in the Indian auto sector, will make its debut in this year’s Auto Expo with a fleet of 14 new internet, electric, and autonomous car models. With these vehicles, the company says it wants to accelerate the adoption of eco-friendly, next-generation mobility solutions across the hatchback, sedan, and utility vehicle segments in India over the long term. “All MG products at the Expo operate at the intersection of our core focus on innovation, customer experience, and sustainability-led development,” Rajeev Chaba, president and managing director, MG Motor India, said.
Chaba spoke to Fortune India about their first electric vehicle for the Indian market—the MG ZS EV, the ongoing slowdown, and what sets them apart from the competition. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Within a few months of launching the Hector, MG has tasted success. It holds over 50% market share in the mid-size SUV segment. Why do you think it worked so well in the Indian market?
MG as a brand is driven by the objective of providing our customers with a compelling product and strong product assurance across different segments. What has worked best for MG Hector is our unrelenting focus on innovation and delivering best-in-class service experience. As India’s first Internet car, it comes equipped with MG’s proprietary iSMART technology that has been developed in association with domain-leading tech companies. Hector comes with an industry-first ownership package, the ‘MG Shield’, which offers a five-year warranty and attractive prepaid maintenance packages starting at ₹8,000 for three years. All this combined makes the Hector one of the most compelling ownership propositions for the Indian consumers.
With no certainty on India’s electric transition, you have gone ahead and launched an electric SUV. Don’t you think it’s a risk?
At MG Motor India, we aim to address the evolved new-age sensibilities and preferences towards hi-tech ownership propositions such as electric vehicles and connected mobility. We are, therefore, looking to further strengthen our position as the technology pioneer in the Indian automotive space by introducing industry-leading technologies with every model we introduce. As a future-forward automobile brand, we are dedicated to accelerate the adoption of eco-friendly, next-generation mobility solutions within the country, and create a robust EV infrastructure to support and catalyse EV adoption in India. The launch of the ZS EV this month, along with ‘5-way charging infrastructure’, is a critical step in that direction. Each ZS EV comes with an onboard cable to charge anywhere and an AC fast charger for charging at homes/offices. Through fast DC chargers (50 kW), the ZS EV will reach 80% battery capacity within 50 minutes, while AC fast chargers installed at homes will take around six-eight hours for a full charge.
When we met last year, I asked you about what numbers you were expecting. You said that you were not looking at quantity. Now that you have the numbers and the popularity, how well do you expect the MG ZS EV to do?
With the ZS EV, we are looking to deliver an equally extraordinary experience to our customers while adding weight to the EV momentum in India. We are taking it slow and steady as far as the volume race is concerned, and are more focussed on customer satisfaction as we expand our service network this year. The focus, for MG Motor India, is on providing a good charging infrastructure and demystifying EVs for the mass consumer. The ZS EV has already registered significant success in more than 10 international markets such as the U.K., Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia. It has also been extensively tested for India-specific requirements.
How much has the slowdown affected you? Your month-on-month sales have dropped October onwards, while the segment is down by around 20%.
Sales fluctuations are an inseparable part of every economy. The important part is to keep track of the market trends, tweak strategies, and keep moving forward. When we came to India, we started with a blank slate. Since the launch of the Hector, we have recorded an overwhelming response, and consumers are responding enthusiastically to our cutting-edge ownership propositions. However, the challenge is to sustain momentum in this market and we will continue to do so by delivering the best service experience to our customers. India is one of the most important markets for the MG brand globally. Indian consumers are among the world’s most modern and tech-oriented people. The Indian market is also one of the most progressive and has been steadily progressing towards a future powered by renewable energy—in line with its sustainability goals. As a future-ready brand, we are well-positioned to capitalise on emerging trends in the auto-tech space.
You are planning to invest ₹3,000 crore in the Indian market. What will this investment entail?
We have so far invested ₹2,200 crores to upgrade our Halol manufacturing facility since the start of our operations in September 2017. Our overall investment outlay for the next three-four years will reach ₹5,000 crore. Our endeavour is to provide great products to Indian customers backed by strong product assurance and service. In 2020, we also intend to invest in bolstering our capabilities on the manufacturing as well as sales and distribution fronts. We will also ensure that our workforce has access to the best amenities and facilities that makes MG in India one of the best places to work for. Apart from expanding our geographical footprint across India, we also aim to drive large-scale dealer training. Apart from this, MG Motor India will also sponsor innovation- and sustainability-focussed initiatives such as the MG Developer Program and Grant, which focusses on supporting tech talent to pursue research and development (R&D) in advanced mobility solutions in India. Going forward, we are evaluating further market opportunities and are looking to increase our India portfolio to four products in two years..