Steve Cro­p­ley

Keep your eyes on this small firm

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - Steve Cro­p­ley


One thing you learn from work­ing in the car news racket is that un­pre­dictable sto­ries ex­cite you. Right now, I’m itch­ing to hear more of the rocket-like progress of Equip­make, a small Nor­folk com­pany I didn’t even know ex­isted two years ago, now cur­rently on course to be­come one of Europe’s largest elec­tric mo­tor mak­ers. This is be­cause its tiny team, led by CEO Ian Fo­ley, has had the fore­sight to un­der­stand the lat­est tech­nol­ogy and de­velop bril­liant prod­ucts ahead of the horde. Read more on page 54.

One of many chal­lenges that con­fronts Equip­make (and oth­ers in the UK’S ex­pand­ing group of tiny-but-po­tent dis­rupters) is that to grad­u­ate to the tier-one sta­tus its prod­ucts de­serve, it will need to win the ac­cep­tance of gi­ant car mak­ers used to deal­ing with gi­ant parts mak­ers. Fo­ley, a clear-minded Liver­pudlian who has been con­tem­plat­ing tran­si­tion for a while, cites Chevro­let’s ex­pe­ri­ence with its all-elec­tric Bolt as ev­i­dence he can make it. “More than half the Bolt’s con­tent comes from LG, an elec­tron­ics com­pany new to the cars,” he ex­plains. “Some reckon the car ought to be re­named LG Bolt…” Small won­der plenty of tra­di­tional parts sup­pli­ers (and their share­hold­ers) worry about the future.


Funny how you keep learn­ing stuff about spe­cial peo­ple even af­ter they’ve de­parted this life. Talk­ing about the late F1 driver, Au­to­car hack and con­sum­mate chas­sis en­gi­neer John Miles, some­one noted a cou­ple of touching asides from the bot­tom of his obit in The Times. Mul­ti­matic boss Larry Holt had de­scribed his self-taught col­league as “the world’s great­est ride and han­dling en­gi­neer” and, on what turned out to be his last trip to hospi­tal, Miles noted that the am­bu­lance’s ride and han­dling “seemed quite ac­cept­able”. The lat­ter comment put me in mind of a late, great and end­lessly witty jour­nal­ist I once worked with, Phil Llewellin, who de­lib­er­ately or­gan­ised an ex­clu­sive drive of his lo­cal hearse for The Daily Tele­graph – be­cause he reck­oned on the next trip, he might not be able to reach the key­board.


Took my first journey in one of Lon­don’s new range-ex­ten­der TX elec­tric taxis, a three-mile trip from Lon­don’s Pim­lico tube sta­tion into the City. I’ve pre­vi­ously been in one of these – first at Good­wood as a pas­sen­ger, then be­hind the wheel on roads around the Coven­try works – but this was a more in­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause a) I was a proper, pay­ing punter, and b) we were do­ing what the ve­hi­cle was built for.

In a sense, the TX came alive be­cause we were on roads I’ve pre­vi­ously rid­den in lesser, com­mon-or-gar­den cabs. In­stant im­pres­sion: it was un­prece­dent­edly spa­cious, quiet and smooth, and the low weight of the bat­tery gave it a level, more com­fort­able and quite dif­fer­ent ride qual­ity. And the bloke be­hind the wheel seemed full of the joys, too, which made a nice change. I get the feel­ing this new TX is go­ing to bring quite a bit more to Londoners than cleaner air.


A sunny week­end, so for the first time this year my week­end driv­ing has been con­fined ex­clu­sively to my 15-plate, 19,000-mile, ex-au­to­car Mazda MX-5, freshly washed and ser­viced. Ev­ery time I let in the clutch, I marvel at the bril­liance of the com­pro­mises this car strikes – on size vs com­fort, on per­for­mance vs driv­ing ease, on price vs equip­ment, on han­dling vs ride and re­fine­ment. It’s a mir­a­cle to me that Mazda has achieved these ideals four times since 1989, but also a bit of a re­lief that they won’t do it again for another five years or so. Don’t want my en­joy­ment dis­turbed by some­thing that might be bet­ter…

Fo­ley’s small Nor­folk­based elec­tric tech out­fit is mak­ing waves

Mazda has again struck the sweet spot with its MX-5

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