Mark Edwards is Managing Director of Zenos Cars. He founded the company in 2012 with fellow former Lotus Exec Ansar Ali in Norfolk. He is committed to the lightweight and affordable sports car market and remain recognised business leaders in the field.
According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, imprisonment, marital separation and loss of a family member are the most stressful life events a person can endure. I would propose to Messrs Holms and Rahe that setting up a car company, even a low-volume specialist car company, certainly ranks closely behind!
How hard can it be? Well, besides setting up the supply chain, locating a factory, hiring the right people, etc., there’s a lot of trust-building – with suppliers, staff and with customers. It’s perhaps the emotional side that’s the most difficult; starting from scratch requires complete belief that this is the product to make, and that other people – most notably customers! – will see things that way too.
The amount of work to do is usually reflected in the time between starting-up and making your first sales, and I think we were no exception. From the inception of our company, a full two years passed before we began full production. That sounds like a long time but with designing, prototyping, evaluation, test driving, component sourcing and financing to squeeze in, it went quickly.
I think what has driven us on is that we’ve consistently had a clear vision for what it is we want to achieve: producing lightweight sports cars that don’t cost a fortune to build or own. We’ve really stuck to our philosophy and everyone at the company has bought into that.
I believe there’s a bright future for niche manufacturing in the UK because there’s a rich pool of talent here. The trick is to design and build the right products – thereby creating demand for that talent. We set up Zenos Cars in 2012 after deciding there was a gap in the market for thrilling sports cars that were still affordable – and we’re on track to build 80 cars in our first year of production, and to increase that by 50% in the second year.
The UK is one of the finest places in the world to make such a thing happen. There are myriad suppliers that can produce high-quality components and respond to requests very quickly, as shown by our network of suppliers and partners. And because we’re a small country, making visits is easy, so relationships are stronger and collaboration is greater. There’s also fantastic support available – we have received support from the Niche Vehicle Network and from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership through the Growing Business Fund.
Global demand for British products can also contribute to the health of niche manufacturing here, and sports cars – especially those that are lightweight and handle brilliantly – are something we’re able to do particularly well. In the case of Zenos, around half of all our production, which is all to-order, is exported.
I’m very proud when I see our cars in production at our factory, at a show or in the media. But of course nothing makes me prouder than seeing them being driven by customers, especially when they’re obviously enjoying themselves. And when I look back at where we were two years ago – studying design sketches, prototype parts and a seating buck, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come in a short time.
So with more cars rolling off the production line and new variants launching both in the UK and overseas, will my Holmes and Rahe stress scale ranking be reducing? Don’t bet on it!!