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Back to basics

Luxury cars are now becoming less over-designed and over-styled, so says Jonathan Wells on day one of TSDF…

A product comprising a fusion of heritage and modernity is a challenge for any luxury product manufacturer. So, when Jonathan Wells, head of design at Morgan Motor Company, took to the stage on the first day of The Superyacht Design Forum, a plethora of yacht designers were captivated by how the prestigious luxury British sports car manufacturer manages to achieve such a fine balance of both worlds.

Morgans are stereotypical British classic cars, and while the factory has seen significant technological developments, the company has stayed true to its roots and the styling remains traditional. Even the materials are traditional – the ‘coach’ is still a wooden frame with sheets of aluminium, for example. However, the use of such materials does not compromise performance – Wells says that its highest performing product, the Aero GT, with its BMW V8 engine, can reach a top speed of 170mph and will travel from 0–60mph in 4.5 seconds.

“A lot of people find it bizarre that we still use a wooden frame,” explained Wells, “but it has wonderful NVH [noise, vibration and harshness] qualities. We operate a lean approach to how we produce these vehicles. And one of our unique selling points is the fact that we use materials like wood to produce our cars. Clients love to visit the factory and see the production – it adds an emotional touch to the product.”

"Cars are now becoming less over-designed and over-styled as time goes on. The battles now are under the chassis, where people are trying to generate super fluid forms."

Wells said that Morgan finds a lot of automotive trends nestled in the yachting sector. “We always look for inspiration in other sectors,” he explained. “We have to analyse the bodywork of other products to ensure that ours are the best they can be. It’s often not so much the lines we are interested in, but how light reflects off curves, so we look at other products and how the light affects the visual form.”

The main challenges and competition between automotive manufacturers now is “under the skin” of the products, according to Wells. “Cars are now becoming less over-designed and over-styled as time goes on,” he explained. “The battles now are under the chassis, where people are trying to generate super fluid forms. The actual side silhouette is open to interpretation.”

A member of the audience asked Wells how Morgan copes with the challenges of adhering to tightening automotive regulations, to which he answered that Morgan, fortunately, sits under the production threshold for many. However, he said that it's undoubtedly the firm's biggest challenge. "We’re doing constant emission and vibrations testing. When new regulations come in, it’s a huge overhaul for a very small team trying to achieve such a lean production, but we have to remain flexible."


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