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Small, but perfectly formed

Posted on by St John

Small, but perfectly formed

St John White is mightily impressed by the success of low volume carmakers in the UK, but wants the media to get behind this global success story.

Prova recently managed the press office for the annual Niche Vehicle Network (NVN) Symposium, held at Gaydon in March 2014. The event is a great showcase of UK engineering talent, where around a dozen funded R&D project teams display and demonstrate a huge array of innovation. While one business – AIE was demonstrating its work into the use of wankel rotary engines as an EV range extender; another UK firm, Surface Transforms was showcasing its new ceramic braking disc for use in high performance cars.

What really struck me watching the various speakers and exhibitors at the event was the diversity and depth of talent among these businesses, 90% of whom were not global corporations, but passionate SMEs employing a handful of people.

As well as engineering innovation, the day included sessions from a handful of successful niche vehicle manufacturers; BAC, the people behind the beautiful Mono; Zenos, which launched its eye-catching E10 at Autosport International in January; and McLaren, which brought along one of its exquisite P1 models. Also involved in the NVN are brands such as Ariel, Morgan and Westfield – all of whom are investing in new models and seeing bulging order books.

This is a remarkable British success story that should be hailed from the rooftops. Surely this industry’s ability to develop and market new cars shows how, with the right level of government support, R&D support and political will, we can really create world beating products here in the UK.

I applaud the work of central government and its genuine commitment to manufacturing; the Technology Strategy Board and the NVN, as well as politicians like Malcolm Harbour, who I understand played a central role in fighting the corner for the UK’s niche vehicle sector in Brussels.

This event confirmed to me that there is a really bright future for low volume, high quality vehicles made in the UK. What I’d really like to see is the media getting behind this tide of success and highlighting this niche industry as a great British success story.

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