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Wednesday 18th July 2012

Caterham: the future

Seven still 'core' but new road car is crucial to brand's survival and it might be built outside the UK, says Caterham's new boss



Caterham's new boss Graham Macdonald has literally moved one office up from where he was as financial director but his new job at the top leaves him with, as he admits, big shoes to fill.

The recent departure of Ansar Ali lacked the scandal of Dany Bahar's exit from Lotus and while Caterham isn't facing dramas quite as significant as those in Hethel Macdonald clearly has some battles ahead of him, not least how to move Caterham on from dependence on the Seven and its endless derivatives.

The closest to a new model in recent memory
The closest to a new model in recent memory
On a visit to PH Towers earlier today Macdonaldadmitted that Caterham had 'stalled' over the last couple of years, with a lack of new products beyond the 'parts bin' (his words...) but still wonderful Supersports. Cars like that can only keep Caterham going for so long though, Macdonald candid about progress with ongoing plans for a new road car and where he wants to take the company, including possible manufacture outside the UK.

Earlier in the year Ali revealed to us that the new road car would be in the £40-£50K bracket, sub-1,000kg, driver focused, front-engined, rear-driven and based around a monocoque tub of some description. He also declared his preference for a normally aspirated engine, without ruling out the possibility of supercharging, a la SP/300.R.

And it would seem Macdonald has picked up this baton and, broadly, this continues to be the basic blueprint that he will carry through to fruition. But will it be built in the UK? Possibly not says Macdonald, with an accountant's eye to profitability and exchange rates, though Caterham's British identity will be maintained wherever it's constructed he insists.

He's still open-minded about what'll be under the bonnet and apparently six-cylinder engines have been considered. But it'll more likely stick to four, with the necessary extra performance delivered by supercharging.

The ghost of the 21 does still linger though, this being the last time Caterham tried its hand at a road car and, by any measure, a spectacular failure.

Track only SP/300.R could bridge gap to F1
Track only SP/300.R could bridge gap to F1
Macdonald faces a tricky dilemma too. Visit the showroom just behind Caterham station and, in isolation, it would be easy to paint the brand as a retro 'they do make 'em like they used to' Morgan-esque operation. And yet, at the other end of the scale, you've got an F1 team and outspoken figurehead in the shape of Tony Fernandes ready to shake up the established order. Bridging the gap twixt the two is a challenge that will require more than just a few SP/300.Rs, and while motorsport is clearly important to Caterham, Macdonald's focus is on the road car business.

Seven variants will continue to come but, clearly, the new road car carries a heavy responsibility. And, as the Exige S proves, great product alone isn't always enough to translate critical praise into sales success. Interesting times and tomorrow Macdonald will assert his position with a year zero strategy meeting with Caterham's senior managers in an attempt to nail down what the brand stands for and how it will progress under his leadership.

Dan Trent
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americancrx

Original Poster:

259 posts

100 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
Caterham:

It doesn't get any more obvious than this.

The MkI and MkII Elise chassis will soon be available to you.

Use them wisely.

20k for the base model with a 1.3 liter, 80 hp Peugeot EW will work if it weighs in at 700kg.

Don't build another 21.

Captain Muppet

8,030 posts

148 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
PH said:
And, as the Exige S proves, great product alone isn't always enough to translate critical praise into sales success.
FFS.

cathalm

595 posts

127 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
Jesus Christ PH leave Lotus alone! This article is about Caterham. So the Exige S is not a sales success? They only starting building them this week FFS!.

Anyway, I hope Caterham succeeds this time around but I wish the blokes from Dartford weren't going to lose their jobs.


Fishy Dave

230 posts

128 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
[quote]Cars like that can only keep Caterham going for so long though
[/quote]

Like the last 30 years? It would be a huge mistake building the Seven abroad IMO.

thewheelman

2,194 posts

56 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
americancrx said:
Caterham:


20k for the base model with a 1.3 liter, 80 hp Peugeot EW will work if it weighs in at 700kg.

Don't build another 21.
Oh god no! I wouldn't want an underpowered Pug engine anywhere near it.
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cliffie

170 posts

101 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
Good luck Caterham, you have a great product already and a good bunch of people working there, I hope both are well protected with the new road car.

CDP

5,012 posts

137 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
Fishy Dave said:
Like the last 30 years? It would be a huge mistake building the Seven abroad IMO.
It depends. Selling in economies like the US, China and India may not be feasible without local production. Imagine just how much potential for club racing you could have in China?

MX7

7,880 posts

57 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
cathalm said:
Jesus Christ PH leave Lotus alone!

wile7

45 posts

104 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
This chat about Caterham diversifying always makes me anxious. TVR tried and died. Morgan kept the main car unchanged more or less (focused primarily on engines) and is doing ok. Yes, the 21 was a mistake but the mainstay of the business, the seven, is what the market wants. Not another variation. Develop the seven, engines etc but do not wander too far from the main focus. Demand for caterhams/lotus seven is strong. The old school cars even more so I think especially internationally. Look at developing old school style with modern internals and you will be fine. Try to add a new car into the mix now given the financial climate and Caterham will fail. Just my tuppence worth....

fathomfive

7,550 posts

73 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
thewheelman said:
Oh god no! I wouldn't want an underpowered Pug engine anywhere near it.
Fords 125bhp Ecoboost 1 litre instead would fit the bill nicely.

thewheelman

2,194 posts

56 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
fathomfive said:
thewheelman said:
Oh god no! I wouldn't want an underpowered Pug engine anywhere near it.
Fords 125bhp Ecoboost 1 litre instead would fit the bill nicely.
That crossed my mind smile

Dan Trent

Attendee

934 posts

51 months

PH Editor Bloke

[news] 
Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
And ours too. So we asked Graham and it hadn't. But he sounded interested! If it happens we'll make sure it's branded as a PH edition.

jazzyjeff

3,632 posts

142 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
CDP said:
Fishy Dave said:
Like the last 30 years? It would be a huge mistake building the Seven abroad IMO.
It depends. Selling in economies like the US, China and India may not be feasible without local production. Imagine just how much potential for club racing you could have in China?
That should be an argument for building an additional factory to service those markets, not to close the existing one.

Such a shame when UK businesses don't recognise their business asset is their employees frown

BertBert

8,197 posts

94 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
If I were Ansar, I might even feel relieved about not having to preside over this next iteration of Caterham.

If it's really necessary to build a new road car for their future (and I don't agree that that is a given), it's so full of risk. Fun to try and get it right, but if it's critical for the survival of company, then a huge challenge!

And all in the hands of an accountant?? biggrin

Bert

ewenm

26,950 posts

128 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
cathalm said:
I wish the blokes from Dartford weren't going to lose their jobs.
Has that been confirmed in public?

cathalm

595 posts

127 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
MX7 said:
cathalm said:
Jesus Christ PH leave Lotus alone!


Do you like me? I like me an awful lot. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM.... Me

TheRacingSnake

1,315 posts

46 months

[news] 
Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
jazzyjeff said:
CDP said:
Fishy Dave said:
Like the last 30 years? It would be a huge mistake building the Seven abroad IMO.
It depends. Selling in economies like the US, China and India may not be feasible without local production. Imagine just how much potential for club racing you could have in China?
That should be an argument for building an additional factory to service those markets, not to close the existing one.

Such a shame when UK businesses don't recognise their business asset is their employees frown
Just typical business management isn't it???? Top levels tend to think the cut of their suit is more important than the guy that actually does the work and makes the money!!!

TonyHetherington

31,791 posts

133 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
How many times over the past 10-15yrs have we read, in all forms of press "Caterham can't continue to survive on just the Seven, and all its iterations" ?

And yet, they're still here. With shareholder's investments comes the requirement for expansion. However, I don't think Caterham should expand in that respect - I think they should maximise themselves for the market they serve but no more.

CDP

5,012 posts

137 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
jazzyjeff said:
That should be an argument for building an additional factory to service those markets, not to close the existing one.
That's my view too. Their mainstay is the UK (and European) market, being close to that is absolutely essential.

The seven isn't exactly a unique product in the UK market; distance it in anyway from the loyal customer base and one of their competitors (or previous suppliers) will step right in.

But that's also an argument for satellite operations in distant markets. When it happens wealthy Chinese club racers and enthusiasts will expect a very high standard of backup and service.

richb77

834 posts

44 months

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Wednesday 18th July 2012 quote quote all
americancrx said:
The MkI and MkII Elise chassis will soon be available to you.

Use them wisely.

20k for the base model
Quite right. I cannot believe their next model is aimed at £40-50k range.

at £40-50k range your competing with a large range of competent machinery. Sorry to say but if i was to spunk £40k on a car (even a track toy) it would have to be a Porsche 911.

Yes i know its heavier and BHP/ton blah, blah blah but it can be stored outside, maintained by pretty much any garage and can be driven with ease too and from the track.

Dont get me wrong. If i could i would have a caterham (7) but its like an expensive motorbike. You have a car for when the "other vehicle" isnt practical.
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