Bespoke British sports car makers have had a torrid time in recent years. But while some like TVR and Bristol having gone to the wall Malvern-based Morgan continues to fly the flag and prosper. Managing director Charles Morgan reflects on its success and tells Enda Mullen how its future is as important as its 100-year heritage
Charles Morgan exudes the air of a man who really doesn’t find it hard to get up and go to work each day.
Mind you, who wouldn’t if they were running a thriving family-owned car company founded by their grandfather.
Mr Morgan said he believes its success is down to offering ‘the fun factor’ as much as anything else.
The company has certainly grown, at a steady rather than revolutionary rate. This year its 180-strong workforce will produce almost 1,500 cars and Mr Morgan pointed ten years ago the figure would have been more like 600.
In 2010 the company’s turnover was almost £29 million and it posted profits after tax of almost £1.3 million.
Interest in the company and its output has been boosted by the arrival of the 3 Wheeler which costs £30,000. This year the company will turn out between 600 and 700 of them, around 200 of its high performance Aeros and Aero Coupes, which have a starting price of £99,000, and 500 models of its ‘classic’ range which costs from £30-70,000 and includes models like the Plus 8, Roadster and 4 Seater.
Mr Morgan divides them up as “the three pillars of Morgan” and revealed the company is at something of a crossroads as it looks forward.
“Morgan is going through a big re-think of its strategy and very much looking to the future than back into our history,” he said. “The 3 Wheeler has made people realise that cars can be fun again. It has bypassed all that ‘motor cars are the worst thing in the world business’ - the worst thing man ever invented and killing us with its fumes or killing us on the roads because it’s dangerous.
“What the 3 Wheeler says is you don’t have to do 200mph and can still feel like a real pro. You can do 0-60mph in the time a Lamborghini does but also do 50 miles to the gallon and really enjoy yourself on a country road without feeling you are creating the worst carbon footprint known to man. Young people caught on to it like kite surfing and it’s probably more akin to kite surfing than driving a Renault Clio.
“I always knew it would have a huge response from the Morgan community because of the legendary design. What I didn’t expect was that young people would want it so much. That is really pleasing and a huge boost. I do want to keep driving fun so you don’t have to go to a track day to have fun behind the wheel.”
The 3 Wheeler’s appeal to a more youthful audience was part of a drive to reach out to young people, something backed up by a more proactive approach to social networking and a return to motor racing.
Though the overt retro styling of the classic models has changed little, the Aero is very much a fusion of the old and the new. Interestingly though the 3 Wheeler is loosely based on a classic Morgan three-wheeler of old it would seem to have caught the spirit of contemporary open top wind in your hair motoring to a tee.
“To back all this up what the company needs to do is have a modern image,” said Mr Morgan. “Though that is not to get rid of the fact Morgan is 100 years. We are incredibly proud of our tradition which gives us respect and knowledge.
“But the average age of the team that developed the 3 Wheeler is around 26, its designer Matthew Humphries is 27 and we are a very young company.
“Also I am probably too obsessed but I am really interested in getting more hits on Facebook than Aston Martin.”
Mr Morgan is clearly enthused by a return to motorsport in partnership with Oak Racing.
Their recent outing at Sebring in the US saw an impressive result during the opening FIA World Endurance Championship, where the Morgan 2012 LMP2 qualified on pole position, set the fastest race lap and finished second in class.
And the team began its European Le Mans Series campaign with a top-six finish at the Six Hours of Le Castellet in France where the car finished sixth overall. “That is a way of getting to a young audience and showing that a Morgan is seriously competitive,” said Mr Morgan. “The 3 Wheeler has given us a completely different demographic. We analysed it recently and found the followers of Morgan Motor Company have completely changed. Sixty per cent are under 34 which is good for the future but that wouldn’t have been the case when we launched the 3 Wheeler.”
The intensely competitive world of endurance racing tends to be dominated by automotive giants like Audi but Mr Morgan is not afraid at taking on the ‘big boys’.