In China, Cumberbatch revs up for MG cars

"Sherlock" star drives brand as ambassador

UK icon MG might have been sold to a Chinese company in 2005, but the car brand is counting on a Brit to sell its new SUV in China.

The company recently signed Benedict Cumberbatch to endorse its GTS. The 38-year-old actor was introduced as the new brand ambassador in Shanghai last month.

In the new campaign, Cumberbatch plays a detective on the trail of a mystery woman. The nearly two-minute video plays on the actor’s on-screen Sherlock persona as he takes a ride through iconic London scenes. It is unclear what the association means for the actor’s standing endorsement deal with Jaguar. MG Rover was formed from parts of the former Rover Group, which BMW sold in 2000.

The bankrupt brand was later bought by China’s oldest carmaker, NAC, which has since merged with the Shanghai Automotive Investment Company (SAIC), the country’s biggest car manufacturer.

SAIC has designated MG as the group’s "export brand." With the new brand and ambassador, the car company hopes to revive some of its former glory. The company also has plans to launch the GTS in the UK later this year.

Auto magazines expect MG Cars to promote the brand’s sporting heritage and position it as a performance SUV. The vehicle will compete in the fast-growing compact SUV sector against cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Mokka. It is rumoured to be priced lower than established rivals.

The carmaker will bank on Cumberbatch’s popularity in China, where the actor’s on-screen avatar is known as "Curly Fu," as this sounds similar to the Chinese pronunciation of his character’s name.

Last year, fans in China lobbied UK prime minister David Cameron via Weibo, urging him to bring "Sherlock" back on air. Their appeals worked, and the new series launched on Youku just two hours after its UK debut and received close to 3 million hits overnight. But the question is, will Cumberbatch's appeal translate into auto sales?

This article first appeared on

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