Blog : Salon sickness with Charles Morgan and Ratan Tata
Steven Ward spends three days in the Geneva Salon emerging only for beer and chips
On Tuesday 5 March within Hall six of the 83rd Geneva motor show, AROnline’s three Muppeteers comprising of Steven Ward, Andrew Elphick and Robert Leitch are slouching within the confines of Morgan’s home-made stand which was sponsored by Banque Baring of Geneva.
They are chewing the fat having just had a few minutes chat to a nervous Charles Morgan. Charles is about to brief the press about Morgan’s achievements in the last year and where it intends to go this year. There is to be no French speaking element to this year’s Press Statement unlike last year bi-lingual success. The Morgan stand is brimming with a full colour co-ordinated range of eight cars and a push bike.
At this moment, Ratan Tata and his Top Brass entourage wander across to your amateur correspondents. They’ve just emerged from the JagLandRover lair (which is right now resembling a rugby scrum) where a very bullish Press Conference ended approximately 15 minutes ago. Like a close personal friend, Ratan leans on the perimeter wall of the Morgan stand and says ‘hello’, to which we utter a shy, ‘er… hullo’.
He then, pleasant as you like, asks us ‘Have you seen Charles Morgan?’ At this point, AROnline’s three Muppeteers turn and look around at each other just to confirm that Ratan is indeed engaging us three in conversation. We reply, “er.. he’s over there, preparing for his Press Conference,’ where we point to the screened-off lounge behind the display cars.
‘Oh,’ replies a visibly disappointed Ratan.
We ask: ‘Do you want us to go and bring him over?’ (like Charles Morgan often does as we tell him!). ‘It’s no problem, we’ve just been speaking to him’.
Ratan’s Henchmen are now visibly unsettled. Should they go and get Charles Morgan for him? Should they let us interrupt Charles from preparing his statement? I pitied them. They should be in the Morgan stand, not standing outside liaising with us monkeys. We beckon over Charles with a hand gesture (no, not that one) and he sees the Indian Posse and heads over towards us.
Somewhat bizarrely, Ratan says something along the lines of, ‘he’s got less grey hair than I remember,’ and we joking reply, ‘maybe you’re thinking of his old man? You know what these sons-in-heir of motor manufacturers are like?’ Ratan gets the joke and chortles immediately saying ‘I know it’s the younger man!’
With that, we step back and give the meeting of great motoring manufacturing minds some privacy. Oh, and the Press Conference was duly delayed!
….and now you’ll be expecting a proper motor show report from me?
Well seeing as how we’re at the Morgan stand, we’ll start there. Rumours abounded that there’d been blood on the boardroom carpet within the Malvern manufacturing facility. Steven Morris (previously Operations Director, now MD) was said to have overthrown Charles Morgan, although having seen the two men chatting prior to the Press Conference, if there is bad blood between them, it’s definitely not visible. Certainly, nothing was amiss in my view and I will report back further at a later date.
As mentioned, Morgan had been fortunate to have their stand sponsored by a private Swiss bank. I did wonder how on earth they could afford such a relatively generous pitch in the main hall. Geneva, indeed any auto show would be the poorer without the firm.
The stand seemed more professional than ever this year. Morgan showcased a full line-up of their largest ever product range including their new push bike and a special Gulf liveried 3 Wheeler in addition to a standard 3 Wheeler. They are endurance racing at Le Mans this year in the Gulf colours, hence the option of the iconic colour scheme while its noteworthy to say over 500 3 Wheelers have been delivered to eager customers.
The push bike is an interesting spin-off. Said to have been inspired by Charles’ Grandfather’s love of bicycles, this one is limited to just 50, can be painted to match your Morgan and is available only on-line via their web site. A site which is getting over 50k hits per month.
The car range has seen some 50 updates already this year, no mean feat when you’re as small as Morgan. Not that they look updated and I suppose that’s part of the appeal or as Morgan will tell you, ‘you can always but you can never repeat it’. Well they’re doing a good job replaying history as far as I can see in lovingly crafting what is said to be ‘the last proper sports car on sale’ within, ‘a family atmosphere’.
I was keen to interview Steve Morris as I’d heard grumblings within the dealer network. The large PLC dealer group Pendragon had taken on two franchises in 2012 under the prestige Stratstone guise. These dealerships are in Stourbridge and Glasgow and on the surface sit uneasily with the traditional dealer network.
The existing dealers felt that Morgan had sold-out to big business and was offering Statstone preferential terms which could result in a devaluing of the brand. I could certainly see where they were coming from; Morgan dealers have traditionally been family owned and on located on high street (or even behind it). Less showroom, more shop-like, where the dealer had to like you to sell you a car.
By contrast Stratstone traditionally chase sales targets and the nouveau. However, I was reassured that Stratstone’s terms were identical to any other dealer’s T&Cs. Following the Q&A session, I got the impression that Morgan sensed an opportunity to sell to ex-Lotus customers, bored Aston customers and those who leased a car within a business. Statstone it seems, could boldly take them into this new territory.
Mind you, when you hear that they’ve just successfully launched in China, you wonder where the extra capacity will come from. They made around 1,200 vehicles from the various sheds around Malvern last year I’m lead to believe. Join the (year-long) waiting list now is my advice.
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