UK: Design consultancy attracts US venture capitalist
The development of the fledgling automotive design consultancy set-up by iconic Formula One designer Gordon Murray can be likened to Dolby, the audio technology company, according to the US west coast venture capitalists backing the British start-up.
"The closest thing that I can think of what we've got with Gordon Murray Design is how Dolby has developed over the years into a global technology brand," said Jonathan Feiber, general partner of Silicon Valley investor Mohr Davidow Ventures.
Dolby started out in 1965 designing noise-reduction technology and went public in 2007, making its founder Ray Dolby a billionaire.
Dolby doesn't make products, instead licensing its technology to manufacturers, something that Gordon Murray Design (GMD) is expected to do with car technology that it invents.
Mohr Davidow wraps GMD up in its US$1.4bn portfolio of investments as 'clean tech', a future growing sector, it predicts.
The second investor in Gordon Murray Design (GMD), automotive component supplier Caparo Group, is taking a similar risk by investing in ideas that can be exploited commercially, rather than car-making.
"We're really investing in intellectual property and ideas and design," said CEO Angad Paul, "this is one of the best groups of automotive designers in the world."
Murray has assembled a team of 29 mainly young engineers, many of who have worked in F1 and sports cars at McLaren, and housed them in a light industrial unit in Guildford in southern England, well-stocked with CAD, CNC and prototype-building equipment.
Murray's highest-profile project is the T25, a diminutive four-seat city car just 2.4m long, 1.3m wide and 550kg heavy, which Murray says will retail for just GBP5,500.
"We think we'll revolutionise the world of personal transportation with this car," he said.
GMD and its investors won't build the T25, instead it is selling the design and its radical manufacturing method to OEMs or industrial groups looking for a breakthrough product - just as audio expert Dolby pioneered in the 60s and 70s.
"Some of the people we're talking to are just looking at the manufacturing method, not the car and its styling," said Murray.
The T25 is based on a super-strong frame capable of passing European and Asian crash standards, but not US federal ones, and clad in panels made from recycled plastic.
The material and joining methods are still secret, although Murray says it doesn't use pressed steel.
"There are a few pressed parts for small brackets and the like and that's it," he said.