Q&A with Steve Morris, MD of Morgan Motor Company
Steve Morris started at Morgan, the world’s oldest family-owned car company, as an apprentice. Last year he took over as managing director after a coup that saw the departure from the boardroom of Charles Morgan, one of the firm’s major shareholders and grandson of the firm’s founder. We caught up with Steve during a Morgan track day here at the circuit…
Great to see you at Goodwood Steve – do you get out and meet your customers like this often?
We like to support our dealers and our customers where we can, whether it’s Goodwood or Le Mans – we are taking customers down for the Le Mans Classic soon. You come across the Morgan community everywhere. It’s a friendly family community.
Still a family feeling to Morgan then?
Very much so. Not only the family but also all the stakeholders who go with the family – the employees, customers, dealers…
Can you give us a Morgan state of the nation report?
We are looking at building 1000 vehicles this year which is on par with last year and 30 percent up on two years ago. We have between 45 and 50 cars in production at any one time. We have 175 staff and are currently recruiting more.
There have been claims you are making redundancies
They are absolutely wrong. Staffing levels are going up in various areas of the business. And we have our Training Academy, like modern apprenticeships, which for me is a big-ticket item. One thing we recognise is increasing core skills so you get tomorrow’s leaders and managers.
What new models have you got coming?
And further out?
This is a year of consolidation for Morgan. We are looking at everything we do with a view to doing it better, with the focus on quality. We are putting more effort into the current cars. I wouldn’t say there is nothing new in the big picture, but at the moment it’s very much an evolution of where we are.
The 3 Wheeler accounts for a large chunk of your production– did you expect to sell as many?
No. Our business plan was for up to five a week but it went up to 16 a week last year. Pete Larsen (who first resurrected the idea of a three-wheeler inspired by the original Morgan design, in Seattle in 2009 – ed) sold around 10 cars in four years – all beautifully engineered but it just shows you where the power of the brand is. If anyone could sell a three-wheeler – and we have sold 1200 now – it was going to be us because of our heritage. It was an engineering challenge though because there was nothing to benchmark it against.
The Three-wheeler is a gorgeous toy – won’t the market for it get saturated soon?
I guess the answer is yes but I don’t know when that point will come. It’s amazing how many people with serious car collections have said it’s the most fun they have ever had in a vehicle.
So how do you keep them coming back for more?
That’s part of the challenge. It is what it is. You can’t really put a roof on it. There are certain styling things you can do though. We are launching it in new markets – the first ones are just arriving in China.
‘Modernisation’ has proved a contentious word at Morgan over the years. What is your vision of Morgan modernisation?
For me, modernisation is about controlled growth whether it’s product or infrastructure. Morgan has never been a boom and bust firm.
What are you doing to improve after-sales support?
That’s a brilliant question because this is a massive focus for the company and for me personally, with my background in production and product. I am passionate about making improvements. Ninety eight per cent of Morgans made are still on the road so there’s a real growth opportunity for us.
How much of a car enthusiast are you?
I’m a big enthusiast and always have been. I have an Aero 8 and a Three-wheeler and my every day car is a Mercedes C36 AMG, which is lovely. I drove a Jaguar F-type R last week and was very impressed – Jaguar has done a good job there.
What could Jaguar learn from Morgan?
I gave Ralf Speth (JLR chief exec) and Adrian Hallmark (JLR strategy director) a factory tour a few weeks ago – they asked me in Geneva if they could come and have a look. I don’t think they were eyeing up the place – a lot of senior Jaguar people drive Morgans. The thing that intrigued them was our level of bespoking and speed of reaction. Morgan does offer the most personalised service in the motor industry.
There are a lot of myths about Morgan, what would be your slogan for the company today?
The myths persist. Everywhere you go in the world people ask if we still have a long waiting list, and do we still use a wooden chassis, which the cars have never had. And they ask about Sir John Harvey Jones (whose 1990s Troubleshooter TV programme on the firm was famously critical). It is funny how some things stick like glue whereas other things you spend PR and marketing money on don’t stick as well. A slogan? Morgan – true to its beliefs and core values.
You have used the word ‘family’ a few times – is a reconciliation with Charles possible?
The one message here is that Morgan today is a fiercely independent family-owned company. There has been no change in the shareholding. We have strengthened the executive board, there is a lot more depth and breadth to it. We have a firm strategy in place, and are being very structured in our approach to delivering it. There has been a lot of publicity but from our point of view it is very much business as usual.