Keep your eyes on this small firm
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