CAR's interviewed Charles Morgan, owner and managing director of the Morgan Motor Company. We asked him how olde-worlde Morgans could remain relevant in the 21st century, heard about future plans and had the latest news on the Morgan Three Wheeler.
CAR: How's business at Morgan Cars in 2011?
Charles Morgan: 'We have successfully increased production every year during the recession. We are the only car manufacturer I can think of that has done that.'
How've you managed to keep business buoyant in such a tough marketplace?
'We have been introducing new stuff and we have been spending on R&D. If you don't do that, you'll struggle to sell cars.'
How many cars does Morgan Cars sell each year?
'In our terms, our volumes are quite high. We used to sell around 500-550 cars annually, but that grew to 650-750 in recent years. This year we expect to sell more than 1000 cars with the advent of the Three Wheeler.'
The new Morgan Three Wheeler seems a bold product. Why launch such a niche vehicle harking back to your roots when you could have launched something new?
'We are lucky that there seems to be an ever-running demand for about 500-600 Morgan cars each year. We wanted to grow the business and move beyond that. The Three Wheeler will help us achieve that. It's a very different type of Morgan that's in keeping with our values.'
Will the Three Wheeler be good business for you?
'Yes, we've already taken 400 deposits for it! It's much easier to assemble - there's no roof or hood, for instance. By law it is classed as a tricycle not a full car.'
Evolution is the name of the game?
'Yes - we will be fine so long as we keep updating our products. For instance we have recently put the 1.6 in the 4/4 Sport, which has brought CO2 emissions under 130g/km. We must keep our products relevant to our customers.'
And who are your customers?
'It's a very specific type of buyer and fortunately we know them very well. You have to be an enthusiast to buy a Morgan.'
How does Morgan manage to remain independent?
'We are producing the right products at the right time. I am so proud of what we do in this country. It's about time people realised the talents we have for building small cars. Here in the West Midlands there are people and suppliers who can make anything for us. It's amazing and we employ 170 of them here in Malvern Link.'
This is the intriguing bit: Morgans mix ancient and modern, old styling with new tech and BMW engines
'Indeed. We collaborate with Zytec and get airbags from Continental. Our customers expect it and we have to think globally these days.'
Does being a family business help? The company has always been run by your family...
'Family businesses are similar to other businesses - we have to make profits or else we will be in trouble. But it does mean that we were able to make a decision in the recession to carry on spending on R&D when others stopped. We can follow a very long term plan. We do tend to be a bit cautious, but we are lucky with fabulously loyal shareholders.'
Tell us of your future plans for Morgan Cars
'There's the Three Wheeler which goes on sale this summer. We are very excited by that. Plus we are doing a full airbag system with Continental at the moment. Beyond that, I cannot comment yet. But remember Morgans are as well engineered as a Golf; we are not a kit car company.'