Ariel Motor: Small firms MUST be engaged in R&D

Posted on 8 Mar 2018 by Jonny Williamson

The founder and director of Ariel Motors – the manufacturer behind the Ariel Atom, discusses why technological disruption offers ‘remarkable opportunities’ for agile, responsive businesses.

The Ariel Atom is a road legal high performance sports car – image courtesy of Ariel Motor.

Ariel Motor Company is a low-volume performance motor vehicle manufacturing company in Crewkerne, Somerset, England.

The company was founded by Simon Saunders in 1991 as Solocrest, later the name was changed in 1999 to Ariel Motor Company.

The car manufacturer is one of the UK’s smallest automotive companies, with just 19 employees, producing only around 110  cars per year.

Ariel Motor Company manufactures the Ariel Atom, a light, high performance car, the Ariel Nomad, a road-legal buggy and the Ariel Ace motorcycle.

The Manufacturer spoke with Simon Saunders, Ariel’s founder and director, about the reason behind the company’s strong drive to innovation.

Keeping pace with the pressure of competition 

The company’s founder said that it is crucial for a small company such as Ariel to be involved in R&D projects since an innovative strategy is the best course of action to keep pace with an increasing pressure of competition.

Saunders explained: “We are interested in innovation since we aim to keep our products in front of other people. And in a broader sense, we want to help making the UK more competitive through setting new standards in terms of technological innovation.

“All the cars we are now manufacturing do have internal combustion engines. But, we are involved in several R&D projects, where we are looking at electrical powered vehicles. We are working also on a very high performance electric sports car with a turbine range extender, which is an all new technology.”

The reason behind the company’s sharp focus on innovative solutions is, according to Saunders, the rapid technological change in the auto industry worldwide.

And, Saunders underlines, especially the profound and fleet change in the industry bears the biggest opportunities for car manufacturers around the world.

Saunders said, excited: “It is almost like it was a 120 years ago, when there were so many new kinds of new vehicles suddenly coming on the market.

“The new technologies bring a fantastic opportunity along, with different power trains, electric vehicles, hybrids, hydrogen vehicles. All this is happening with an enormous pace and rate.

“The technology is changing so quickly that the opportunity for us as a small company and for the UK as a whole is to be at the forefront of that industrial change. “

Rapid technological change and decision making

Asking Saunders if he sees any pitfalls emerging with the serious disruption which affects not only the car industry but all other manufacturing sectors, he answered: “The biggest challenge which comes with the digital transformation is that it has become very difficult to make wise decisions. “

“It is like you are about to buy a laptop or a mobile phone and you know the best one is always coming out tomorrow. Being in the position to make a decision about a technological product that takes only several years to develop, you have got to draw a line in the sand at some point.”

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