Morgan bosses detail ambitious growth plans

2 months, 2 weeks ago - 25 May 2022, autocar
Morgan bosses detail ambitious growth plans
New CEO says maintaining firm’s values and courting younger buyers will fuel growth

Morgan’s new CEO, Massimo Fumarola, has told Autocar about the priorities for his “exciting” new job, in an exclusive interview at the firm’s flagship UK dealership in Kensington, London, just weeks after moving over from his role as Lamborghini’s special projects boss.

Number one will be to “steadfastly” maintain Morgan’s authenticity and amplify the marque’s unique values and attributes. This, he said, is the essence, but the Morgan ethos also needs wider circulation. Number two will be to take all opportunities for the company to grow, and create more of them, without harming its natural assets. “Heritage isn’t insurance,” he said. “You must have good plans for your future.

Morgan currently makes around 800 cars per year, and it sold a stellar 680 last year even with the 3 Wheeler out of production. The 70% of Morgans that go for export are distributed in 70 markets, the biggest of which are France, Germany and the US.

The firm has already hinted that it would like to be making 1500 cars a year in five years’ time and sees the emergence of the new Ford-engined Morgan Super 3 as providing its earliest opportunity to expand.

Success in the US, where the Super 3 complies with design regulations more easily than the company’s four-wheeled models, is a key opportunity. It’s likely the model will soon become Morgan’s best-seller.

This potential near doubling of output will require a considerable scaling up of plant and people (a new paint facility is about to open) and most of all lays bare the reasoning behind Morgan’s modest top management overhaul.

The company’s owner, Italian private equity firm Investindustrial, last month announced that the role of chairman and CEO, previously held by company ‘lifer’ Steve Morris, would henceforth be split into two. Morris would be elevated to the role of executive chairman, while Milan-born Fumarola would become CEO with responsibility for day-to-day running.

Until now, Morris, who started on the Malvern Link shop floor as a metalworking apprentice, has been closely involved at every level of company management. With more cars, more investment, more facilities, more people and electrification to contend with, Morris acknowledges that he will need to concentrate more on strategic thinking.

Both Morris and Fumarola were visiting the South Kensington dealership, officially dubbed Morgan Works London, to mark London Craft Week, for which Morgan put on special displays to show off the hand-finished, bespoke nature of its construction methods.

Three of the company’s best artisans – Steph on upholstery, Marcin on metal forming and Will on woodwork – were on site, working on part-finished cars lifted temporarily out of the normal build process.

Fumarola, an engineer by training, with a 30-year career working both for large OEMs and low-volume luxury manufacturers, promises a comfortable partnership with Morris as chairman and seems an entirely different character than you might expect of an Italian car executive running what is now an Italian-controlled company in Britain. He lists his strengths as “international exposure” and “an understanding of global market dynamics”.

Fumarola, whose past jobs at Fiat, FCA, Audi, Ferrari and Lamborghini have usually had a prominent marketing element, said: “We believe we have the products to attract a younger generation of owners. Tradition is fine, but we also have an opportunity to make Morgan a more adventurous lifestyle brand. Our owners tell us this themselves.”

Neither Fumarola nor Morris puts it like this, but it’s apparent that the new CEO’s arrival will spark a fresh examination of Morgan’s plans. No conclusions have yet been drawn, but they agree that at least four burning questions will soon come into focus.

One will be to decide whether – or perhaps how soon – Morgan will need a third model. It currently classes the Morgan Plus Four and Mogran Plus Six variants as one model, given their similarities. Another will be to form new partnerships for the EV era and to revisit existing deals, such as the engine supply agreement Morgan has with BMW.

A third will be deciding how and when Morgan will move to electrification, and for how long it will build ICE models for slow-to-change markets such as the US and some Far Eastern locations. Morgan has already said the Plus models and the Super 3 are “protected” for electrification but has not clarified whether it is considering hybrids or full EVs. Tellingly, Morgan recently announced the hiring of a new chief technical officer, Matthew Hole, whose key role is as head of electrification.

Despite his varied affiliations, Fumarola is a lifelong Morgan lover, citing early contact with a neighbourhood Mog owner in his home country. “What I have always liked best about Morgan is the way the car can add so much to an owner’s quality of life,” he said.

“With some big brands, there is always a certain aloofness. You have a great car but not everybody feels able to talk to you about it. When you’re in a Morgan, nobody needs to keep their distance. Driving one of our cars is about joy, freedom and friendship, as well as fun.”

Morgan’s big decision

The Morgan future that Steve Morris and Massimo Fumarola are busy designing seems likely to include the rule-changing ‘new era’ model whose sketchy details were revealed four years ago.

Conceived by a design team led by Jon Wells, the car aims to move Morgan’s design influence forward about 20 years to the 1960s Jaguar E-Type era. When details first emerged, the car was set to use the aluminium CX platform and independent suspension under today’s Plus Four and Plus Six. It was to appear around 2025, priced close to an Aston Martin Vantage.

Times have changed, however. A more likely scenario would be for the car to appear as an EV, allowing a new pricing structure to cater for the probable high cost of its battery. For now, Morgan is mute on the project, making clear that its priority is a successful production entry for the Super 3.

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