Birmingham Post, 25 March 2011
A Worcestershire sports car fanatic says he will be building up to 10 £65,000 coupes a month by this time next year after steering his troubled firm back on to the right road.
Will Riley’s plans to market the 190mph SV model originally developed by MG Rover have been mired in problems since he bought the rights from the ashes of Longbridge. He lost a legal wrangle with Chinese owners Nanjing to use the famous red octagon on the cars he was building at his headquarters in Tenbury Wells.
Mr. Riley then faced theft and fraud charges, which were dropped in court last week, and remains in dispute with former employees over wages. In his latest setback, bankers repossessed his workshops over a debt which he says was being repaid.
However, now the larger-than-life Mr. Riley has unveiled a new brand using the resurrected logo of the Autovia car firm which manufactured limousines briefly in Coventry during the 1930s. Two-door cars with a powerful 4.6-litre supercharged V8 engine will be on sale within weeks for £54,000, he told the Birmingham Post from the Worcestershire home he is using as a base while he looks for new premises.
‘Despite everything that has happened I never thought for one second about giving it up,’ said Mr. Riley. ‘I have sold my own private car collection to get this business back on track because I am committed to it. There have a been a lot of problems and, in hindsight, I ought to have paid a lot less for the rights to this car. I’ll make it work because I want to be one of the very few people making a great British sports car entirely here in the UK.’
Despite everything that has happened I never thought for one second about giving it up. I have sold my own private car collection to get this business back on track because I am committed to it. There have a been a lot of problems and, in hindsight, I ought to have paid a lot less for the rights to this car. I’ll make it work because I want to be one of the very few people making a great British sports car entirely here in the UK.” Will Riley, Managing Director, Sports and Racing Europe Limited
Mr. Riley said the Autovia SV had been made lighter and more powerful since he trumpeted the MG version as a future classic in 2008. He said the lightweight carbon fibre bodies would now be made in Stoke-on-Trent after switching production from Italy. A new 5.4-litre model priced at £65,000, as well as a V6-engined part fibreglass version, will also be on sale later this year.
The Autovia marque was a subsidiary of the Riley Motor Company Limited, from whose founders Mr. Riley claims to descend. It produced just a handful of cars before Riley was taken over by the Morris Motor Company in 1938.
Mr. Riley said he was undaunted by the threat of a “double dip” recession but claimed banks had not done enough to support small businesses. He is facing his own battle with Royal Bank of Scotland, which seized his premises at the 2.5 acres plant last month. Mr. Riley claims that the bank has failed to help him recover more than £525,000 in Italian taxes which would have covered the £400,000 repayments.
After theft and fraud charges were dropped last week at Hereford Crown Court, a West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said solicitors had considered whether there was enough evidence and the case was in the public interest. The charges related to a car which, it had originally been alleged, was sent back to the UK by a Canadian buyer for snagging work but never returned.
‘The case against William Riley was originally judged by the CPS to pass both of these tests and he was charged with theft and fraud,’ said the spokesman. ‘As part of our continuing duty to keep cases under review, a Senior Crown Prosecutor carried out a further review upon receipt of additional information relating to the case. In the light of this further information, a decision was made to discontinue the prosecution on the basis that there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.’
[Source: Birmingham Post]
[Editor’s Note: Any AROnline readers wishing to find out more about the original Autovia Cars Limited can follow this link to the relevant page on Wikipedia. A quick check on the Intellectual Property Office’s website reveals that this badge appears to have been registered as a Trade Mark by or on behalf of Mr. Riley.]
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