Monday, 20 September 2010

Charles Morgan, Morgan Motor Company - Independent, Proud to be Different and Full of Passion

“At Morgan Motor Company we’re ‘independent, proud to be different and full of passion.’

These were Charles Morgan’s opening words at his BIAD Visiting Lecture, ‘Aspects of Design’, 23rd June 2010.

Charles Morgan, Morgan Motor Cars
“We produce 800 cars a year, 70% of which are exported.

"We employ about 150 people generating £30m turnover and delivering a profit.  We’re a global brand and we’ve been manufacturing for 101 years.


“You re-design an icon at your peril.  How to start this process is a question we’ve had to ask ourselves.  We started by asking what makes our cars the icons they’ve become?

·   Driving experience – sit in a Morgan and it fits around’s the embodiment of ‘driving by the seat of your pants’.
·   We have a strong family element.  I own shares in the company together with my sister and niece.  We look after past and current employees. The average age of our workforce is 37, they’re loyal and committed, and we appreciate all they do for us.
·   A Morgan ‘forces you to interact in a positive way with your environment’. We produced the first cars in the UK using water-based paints.  Our cars are very light  and economical – you could say Morgan was the only car company which started off with an environmental agenda – ‘Lightweight, Balance, Minimalism.’
·   Customisable cars – we’ve noticed consumers in general are getting more demanding and in turn we encourage our customers to choose the car they want and, for example, to watch their cars being made.
·   Vertical Integration is one of our core strengths – we’re a small company that tries to do as much as possible for itself.  We identify the core skills we need at our factory and have in-house.

Morgan Roadster Sport
  A Century of Speed

"We’re incredibly proud to be the largest car maker still in British hands and this does give us a sense of responsibility. 

"Henry Frederick Stanley (‘HFS’) Morgan, my grandfather and our founder, built his first car, a three wheeler, with help from ‘Mr Stephenson Peach’, then Engineering Master at Malvern and Repton Colleges and grandson of the renowned designer of the "Rocket". 

HFS Morgan patented
first designs
"HFS began manufacturing in 1910 and the first two-seaters were exhibited at the 1911 Olympia Show. Mr Burbridge, the owner of Harrods who liked them so much he put one in the window of his famous store.

"HFS broke the 1100 cc. One-hour Record travelling just short of 60 mph for one hour at Brooklands in 1912 and his sister, Dorothy, was a regular entrant in reliability trials.

"At the end of 1913 the Morgan Runabout had gained a greater number of awards for reliability and speed than any other Cyclecar or Light Car.

Early Morgan Runabout
 "That year the company produced racing cars with a longer chassis and lower seating with o.h.v. J.A.P. engines. One was entered for the French Grand Prix at Amiens winning against strong opposition from continental four-wheelers.

"The first four-seater with family dimensions was designed in 1912 but only produced in 1915.  Marketed after the Great War as a ‘Family Runabout’ it sold in large numbers.

"In 1921 Gwenda Stewart became the fastest female driver on the track at Brooklands, achieving 135.5mph in a lap record driving a 3-wheel Morgan and she went on to win many long distance speed records in Morgan 3-wheelers. 

"The ‘50s and ‘60’s were also strong racing years for Morgan and the Plus 8 was designed in the 1960’s with a Rangerover engine in a car weighing a third of the Rangerover’s weight. 

"I joined the the company in 1985 from ITN where I’d been working as a cameraman overseas with reporters like Sandy Gall in Afghanistan.

Morgan 4/4 Sport
  Three steps to Survival

 ·        We started designing new cars again as well as starting to race and win races again - putting the brand back on the motor map.  Racing is an essential testing ground for us, enabling us to prove new technologies and components in a cost effective way, for example, the suspension on the Morgan racing car is the same as the suspension on the road car.

·        We looked at opportunities for using technology transfer – such as superformed aluminium – a process coming out of aero engineering with the result that the metal needs less primer reducing bodyweight.

·        We introduced smarter components, such as our bonded aluminium chassis launched in 2000 – Morgan was the first to launch this technology and was followed by Jaguar and Aston Martin.

Morgan Eva GT
Current Design Process

Wood and Leather
"Matthew Humphries our Chief Designer is in tune with Morgan’s DNA with a real empathy and understanding of how to build on this to find new design routes for the future. 
"He’s using wood and leather authenticity whilst respecting the natural qualities of these materials and our performance attributes and aspirations.
"We’re looking at door design at present as this has not changed much in automotive terms since 1926 – we want to think about all the different ways you can get into a car with particular reference to the seals around the door.

"Once a concept has been drawn up then it is put onto our CAD (computer aided design) platform.  Following this our design team start milling the prototypes with this being done increasingly using Rapid Prototyping techniques in the future. We then submit car to a ‘critical audience’ – for example we’ll take one out to a show Pebble Beach, California, exposing it to demanding customers exhibiting it alongside the most respected world brands in front of car designers.

Morgan 4 Seater
UK Design

"The UK continues to produce some of the most talented designers in the world from our art & design schools and colleges and they are now providing the direction and impetus behind some of our best known brands for example companies such as:
Rolls Royce Aero Engineering
Jamie Oliver
"There are many examples of luxury UK brands including Jaguar Landrover, Aston Martin and Aga Rangemaster, in the West Midlands.

Morgan Plus 4

Excellence in Design

"I’m blown away by Italian fashion companies and how they’re linking design into manufacturing. 

"However, there are a lot of British designers working for internationally branded companies

Peter Horbury – Volvo Design Director
Martin Smith – renowned for his re-design of the Audi now with Ford
Ian Callum, Jaguar
Moray Callum, Ford
Julian Thomson – Lotus
Marek Reichman – Aston Martin
Gerry McGovern – Land Rover

"We have the best universities in the UK, we have the top R&D departments in Engineering in the world.  5 British universities are in the world’s top 10.

"We have a duty to link talent with British companies to put Britain back on its feet.

"For this to happen I think a certain amount of government support will be required. For example, R&D Tax Credits are very important in encouraging investment in development.

"Collaborations between universities and businesses are essentialwhat better way than through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships where businesses gain a graduate committed to developing a key project in your company and bringing with them the knowledge within their universities to drive growth and success more quickly. 

"We’ve had real experience of this at Morgan having been involved in 4 KTPs with Birmingham City University’s engineering faculty, TEE, for over 10 years, resulting in the new product design and the employment of our Chief Designer, Matt Humphries.

"All this product development needs to be harnessed into products that can actually sell increasing turnover and profitability.

LifeCar prototype - rapturous response
 LIFEcar 2

The Lifecar project has seen the development of  a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle involving a collaboration between Morgan and its partners at QinetiQ, Cranfield and Oxford Universities, BOC and OSCar Automotive and part funded by the DTI (now BIS).  It’s been designed to run optimally at cruising speed making it cheaper and lighter than a conventional fuel cell.  It’s 45% efficient, compared to 30% efficiency for a traditional petrol engine, according to Car Magazine with the only emissions being water, heat and 22kW of electricity.

Power is directed to four electric motors providing drive directly to the wheels with the motors capable of recapturing up to 50% of the energy in comparison with a 10% recapture for current applications. The regenerative braking system provides stopping power equivalent to 0.7g and Charles Morgan claims that the switch at low speeds between the regenerative brakes and conventional hydraulic brakes is seamless.

The Morgan Lifecar can achieve 150mpg on a 250 mile range, reach 85 mph, sprint to 62 mph in under 7 seconds.

Speaking about LIFECar 2 Charles Morgan said, "Following on from the rapturous response that LIFECar received, Morgan decided to take LIFECar from a prototype, to a fully fledged production vehicle.

"There have been some changes to the original brief, making the car more practical, while retaining the revolutionary features that made LIFECar unique. The use of sustainable lightweight materials will ensure that not only is the vehicle fuel efficient with a low carbon output, but that at the end of its very long life, it will be easily recyclable.

Morgan LifeCar 2
"This extreme hybrid with onboard power generation and electric motors at its corners is the result of radical design innovation referencing our core values and design DNA.  It’s beautiful, combining our signature wood laminates and leather features and is performing really well in trials.

"We’ve been working on the Lifecar 2 concept for a year and expect to have it on the road in another two years.  Working with graduate researchers from BCU we’ve been developing the electric motors software and a generator for the new vehicle.   It’s a very focussed small team but with access to a great deal of knowledge in the UK Universities.

Morgan Aero Sport


In 2006 Morgan built a one off car for Prince Eric Sturdza, designed by Matthew Humphries and shown at Geneva the same year.  Following an enthusiastic reception and clear demand, Morgan built 100 cars all of which have been sold.  

"The Aeromax cost £2m in development, and was built on an existing platform.

"Having launched this new model the business sold 100 cars over 2 years generating £9m in revenues and £2m in profits representing a 24% Return on Investment.  It raised the profile of the company and made possible the next part of our planned product development."

Role of Government

Earlier that week Charles spoke with The Birmingham Post and the following thoughts appeared in an interview, 24th June 2010. 

"I am disappointed that small UK companies like ours have been ignored by politicians when it comes to funding.

Morgan Super Sport Junior Pedal Car
"Smaller companies are often more innovative and quicker to bring new inventions to fruition, but have been passed over for support in favour of global manufacturers, such as Jaguar Landrover.

"There are some incredible pockets of innovation in established family businesses and these are often overlooked by governments that are looking for ‘safer’ investment – or what government perceives to be safer, anyway.

"Smaller companies are ideal platforms to bring in innovation without having to put such huge sums of money in. 
"My argument is not to overlook the smaller SME’s that have creative management – you get more bang for your buck and it is safer to try new ideas on a smaller scale."

Charles Morgan’s words were echoed by Ron Dennis, Chairman, McLaren Automotive in a Daily Telegraph article, July 2010 calling for a four point plan to boost British industry. It revolved around education, investment in research and development, greater participation between companies and government and ‘daring to be different’.’
Peter Horbury, Former Designer, Volvo, Design Director, Ford whose design team includes Moray Callum, younger brother of Ian Callum
Martin Smith, Former Designer, Audi and Design Director Ford Europe

Beverley Nielsen
20th September 2010

Morgan Motor Company unveils new three-wheeler car at Geneva show

Birmingham Post article 4th March 2011

Read More
Morgan Motor Company unveils 3-wheel car at Geneva Auto Show
Morgan Motor Company unveils 3-wheel car at the Geneva Auto Show
West Midlands motor firm Morgan has unveiled its new three-wheeler car at the Geneva Auto Show 2011.
Malvern-based Morgan Motor Company said it will sell the car, powered by an 1800cc V-Twin engine from Harley Davidson, for £30,000 in the UK when it goes on sale.
The firm said the new product is a modern take on what is probably the most iconic Morgan of all time, although the new vehicle embraces modern manufacturing technology and is the most environmentally-friendly product in the Morgan line-up.
Morgan Motor Company unveils 3-wheel car at the Geneva Auto Show
Dr Viv Stephens, representing the Niche Vehicle Network, said: “Uniquely, we organised a supplier event at Morgan, when the project was at its initial feasibility stage, attended by 26 specialist automotive companies from the West Midlands region, who convinced Morgan that they could add value to the processes of design, development and manufacturing.
“As a result, 12 of these companies have become partners or suppliers to the project, which will be a great benefit to the region in terms of jobs throughout the supply chain and also at Morgan.
"Niche vehicle design and manufacturing are real strengths in the region and our focus is to promote collaborative working to produce competitive and innovative new products.”
Steve Morris, manufacturing operations director at Morgan, said: “Without the support of the Niche Vehicle Network, the project would not have gone ahead at this time. Ironically, the need to invest in developing new products is crucial during economic downturn, so that they are market-ready as the economy recovers.
“The grant funding and support we have received has been vital in exploiting this opportunity, not just for Morgan but also for the specialist supply chain in the region.”

Read More


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