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Low-volume manufacturers can take advantage of changing market forces

Specialist, low-volume car manufacturers are uniquely-placed to take advantage of an ever-diversifying automotive marketplace and the economic challenges facing OEMs, according to Caterham Technology & Innovation (CTI), the engineering consultancy arm of the Caterham Group.

Speaking at the Niche Vehicle Network Symposium on March 19, CTI’s Head of Business Development, Scott Thompson, cited Caterham’s recently-announced Joint Venture with Renault as the perfect example of how OEMs and low-volume car makers alike can benefit from mutual partnerships.

The growth of increasingly niche OEM product – be that trend and demand or economically-driven – shows no sign of slowing.

Thompson believes that the specialist engineering and manufacturing processes adopted by low-volume players may hold the answer to the OEMs need for robust, viable business cases; something their traditional approaches may hinder.

Thompson said: “Today, manufacturers like Mercedes have over double the number of vehicle lines that they offered 20 years ago.

“To make those lines viable, low-volume manufacturers like Caterham have an opening to offer expertise in areas like speed to market, manufacturing and engineering processes, alternative supply chains and lightweight structures.

“At the same time, we know that mainstream OEMs will not accept significant compromises in vehicle quality and durability, so we need to offer robust solutions.”

Caterham Cars announced a 50:50 Joint Venture partnership with Renault in November last year to develop two brand new sportscars. One will be Caterham’s first brand new road model for 20 years, while the other will re-launch Renault’s famous Alpine badge.

While Renault will draw on Caterham’s 40 years of experience developing the iconic, lightweight Seven sportscar, as well as access to its proven components and systems, Caterham will benefit from Renault’s own developmental processes and volume manufacturing plant in Dieppe.

“Clearly companies like Renault recognise that CTI can help them to react much quicker to engineering advancements, speeding up the development process,” explained Thompson. “Meanwhile, Caterham can achieve its aim of expanding into new markets and becoming a truly global brand.”

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