TVR to Return
Just about every petrol-head loved TVR. This is the Blackpool company that made bonkers sports cars with searing performance and breath-taking good looks.
No matter how good the cars were, though, it is never easy to make money out of small production numbers, and in 2004 the firm was sold to a Russian entrepreneur. Despite high hopes, and with convoluted changes of ownership and going into administration, the company stopped producing cars in 2006 and hasn’t built one since.
All that might be about to change, however, as TVR now has new owners and has announced that it will recommence production in 2017. New TVR chairman Les Edgar is an entrepreneur who made his fortune in computer games. He is also an avid TVR owner and fan, with close links to the TVR owners' community. This bodes well for the company, as the previous Russian owner chopped TVR up into a web of different companies and announced that production of the cars would move to Italy, prompting a major protest rally of TVR owners in London. Edgar says that the reborn company will build its new TVRs in Britain. He says that there are four models in development and that the company is partnering with Gordon Murray Design, the renowned car designer who has been responsible for Formula One cars and the McLaren F1 super-car. The V8 engines are being provided by another industry superstar, Cosworth. According to Edgar, it will be ‘back to the future’ for the new TVRs, with the new models being designed and priced like the old TVRs. This market positioning is crucial to the success of TVR cars. They were priced to compete with something like a Porsche Boxster but built to perform like much more expensive sports cars. They also appealed to those who refused to follow the herd and were attracted by the prospect of driving something a little different, as well as something that would get the heart racing.
Edgar says that the new ownership consortium is experienced and well financed and has a long-term strategy that includes a ten-year business plan. The new cars should be familiar to TVR enthusiasts, with Edgar saying that they will be in the spirit of classic two-seater British sports cars but with a modern ground-effect composite aero chassis. This sounds a bit like the revered Tuscan and Sagaris TVRs but with updated engineering. TVRs have always been famous for favouring simple engineering, and this looks likely to continue, as Edgar confirmed that the new cars will have no turbo, a manual gear box, rear-wheel drive and a dry-sump V8 from Cosworth.
The new management team seem canny. They know that it is hugely difficult to make money out of selling small volumes of cars, as economies of scale are not possible. This means that they have to keep manufacturing costs down but keep quality up to standards that people expect from an exclusive and premium product. That is why the relationship with Gordon Murray Design will be so important. Murray has created an innovative new ‘iStream’ production process which is designed to allow a single production line to build many different models, thus bringing down costs for small manufacturers. It is also designed to use Formula One technology to produce lighter, faster cars that use less fuel - something again that will fit well with TVR’s philosophy.
Even with all of these advantages, it will still be a tough act to pull off. In the modern car industry, it is increasingly difficult for smaller marques to turn a profit, and even established prestige car makers like Aston Martin have struggled. Nevertheless, there is a nagging feeling that the market is there for TVR. Many motorists long for something simpler than the hugely complex modern super-cars from Porsche or Mercedes. They also want something with a bit more personality and a car that is not afraid to be more brutal than these polished corporate machines. The purity of a reborn TVR may just deliver on those wishes.