Blog : Salon sickness with Charles Morgan and Ratan Tata

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Steven Ward spends three days in the Geneva Salon emerging only for beer and chips

Ratan Tata and Charles Morgan talk cars at Geneva...
Cyrus Mistry, Ratan Tata and Charles Morgan talk cars at Geneva… (Photo: Andrew Elphick)

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?

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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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All AROnline blogs are the personal opinions of their contributors and not necessarily the editorial viewpoint of the website.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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12 Comments

  1. Morgan- my favourite ridiculously unviable yet even more unlikely successful car maker- how the hell do they manage to produce cars that appeal to so few (let’s face it- they aren’t the obvious choice for your Arab Princeling, Russian Oligarch, or Premier footballer)- yet, bless them, they don’t merely crawl from year to year with fewer orders than can sustain orders, but flourish.

    I want one.

  2. Waiting lists of a year too. They have some major car nut celeb fans too. Jay Leno is a real fan, and owns an original trike car, plus one of the new ones, and the Top Gear dwarf Richard Hammond has owned several.

  3. @3 I was wondering this too. When JLR develops it’s own electrical system, I wonder if Morgan will jump onto their economies of scale instead of using BMW, and of course, perhaps utilising their powertrains (maybe even suspension components).

    One thing is clear, if that waiting list gets and longer, they’re gonna need a new modular factory, especially if they’re targeting the middle-east, where demand for our cars are increasing. Perhaps a CKD assembly facility in China might be on the cards too.

    Ratan Tata seems like such a nice chap.

  4. The question was asked (to Steve Morris) about JLR propulsion, but we were reminded that BMW had more than kindly offered its technology and assistance over the years, (not forgetting phenonmonal emissions certifications costs) in which JLR had also been making engines…

  5. A Morgan will be in my garage one day. One day…

    It’s not just the car, but the wonderful auraabout the company. Long may it continue.

  6. Morgan realise the importance of continuity and gradual development rather than radical change for change’s sake, and happily are willing to take chances. I can’t imagine anyone successfully overturning Charles Morgan – the clue is in the surname…

    Given the product currently available, and F1 publicity, I still don’t really understand why Lotus is doing so badly at the moment, especially now that Bahar has gone. There also still seems to be a big TVR shaped market gap that needs filling.

  7. I witnessed the meeting of Charles Morgan and Ratan Tata on the Morgan stand – we all wondered ‘what next’?!
    Fascinating Austin Rover history of experimental cars – I joined Rover Co Ltd in 1954 and witnessed many as illustrated on your site!

    Clive BANNISTER. Rover 1954 to 1999.

  8. Is that Cyrus Mistry, Tata Group’s new Chairman,with Ratan?

    I was too overawed to ask, but did notice he had a very smart Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

  9. @CLIVE BANNISTER Clive with your experience at Rover you could write a book, or how about an article to follow from the BMH item. I’m sure you must have so much to tell. Yes, The Rover Co Ltd is proper Rover!

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