All Britannia

It seems mighty odd that in an automotive world of “we’ll buy anything” that the British supercar manufacturer TVR would be failing. With a history that spans over thirty years and a reputation for performance cars, you’d naturally assume TVR would have no problems selling their light-weight stripped-out rocket road cars, but you’ve assumed wrong. TVR is in dire financial straits and may disappear under the waves soon.

This despite the fact that other independent supercar manufacturers such as Spyker, Koenigsegg and Pagani have had no troubles selling their product and as result, they are, to take the water analogy further, all currently floating in a cash stream. Not only have they been able to successfully sell a product, but furthermore they have already established both a brand identity and a reputation in a shorter period of existence. But the real question remains, why are TVR’s vehicles not selling and why is the company in trouble?

Well, for starters – it would appear that TVR had employed far too many employees for such a production rate. However the real issue with TVR’s lack of cash flow can be attributed back to the fact that TVR consistently states that all parts fitted within each model are specially made for the model. It would appear that in the long run this operation premise is costing them more than they can charge for as it seems the “all Britannia” rule has been a plague. As a result of this, TVR decide to lower production costs by dropping two models from the line up – The “T350C” and the “Tamora” – while leaving the well known “Tuscan” and the recently released “Sagaris”.

2006 Tuscan S

There are many ways which TVR might approach such a situation where they must reduce their production costs, but in my opinion, this is the worst way. The best thing TVR can do at this moment is outsource. I realize that TVR doesn’t wish to do this; in fact, it is anathema to them. However, it is a necessity if they’re going to have a profitable business.

And, frankly, I think TVR is coming around to this realization as well. For instance, they recently changed tyre set up from “Dunlop SuperSports” to less a expensive, but just as effective” Goodyear Eagle F1 supercar” tyre, and in another outsourcing effort they went with a well established and trusted company “Bilstein” for a pair of sock absorbers when searching for new suspensions solutions on the “Tuscan”. Other recent additions included the use of “AP” brake calipers and “Sparco” seats. This not only gave customers a better perception of the company, since these are recognized performance brands, but as an added (and important) advantage it made the “Tuscan” feel like a proper car. Which leads us to the other problem with doing everything in-house.

The lack of outsourcing for the longest time has indeed given TVR a particular reputation, but not one that they wanted. In fact, one of the reasons why they are so poorly received could have something to do with the fact that they’ve already gained a reputation for building the least dependable and most unreliable cars on the market. Consistent breakdowns of press vehicles as well as customer cars needing engines rebuilds at 5,000 KM certainly aren’t adding to the allure of the TVR brand. With the company’s revamp and buy-out last year, the addition of a longer customer warranty was added – but hey, you can give something a bigger warranty, but if the product is not improved, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s junk.

2006 TVR Sagaris

To be honest, TVR’s have never really been great cars. In fact, it wasn’t until recently when they started being real sports cars. Up until late 2005 or so, TVR’s had been quite simply known as the bargain-cheap British supercar with no amenities, outrageous styling and blistering speed. Obviously such a reputation can’t carry them forever and with such, TVR had to start putting actual work into the car. Late-model vehicles are no longer known as “rough and tough” as chassis dynamics, ergonomics, handling, brakes, etc have all been improved. Although an overall improvement is apparent, let’s not kid ourselves – TVR’s are still vehicles made primarily for the mentally insane. You still get no anti-lock brakes, no limited slip differential, no airbags, and no power steering. Meanwhile, options such as air-conditioning and traction control are still optional.

With this being said, TVR would be mighty smart to make such options standard, as well as adding the ones currently not available at all (ABS, etc), again as standard. TVR’s present hairy-chested and minimalist approach might work for some car company somewhere, but it’s clearly not working for TVR anymore.

Mind you, TVR could also work on importing into the North America market as well, but before they do so, they must fix their reputation.

But is it too late? Yeah, I think it might be.

Author: Bruce McCulloch

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  1. TVR has made a miracle recovery before, when it looked like all was lost. I think they’ll come back again.

  2. I hope you’re right, because they truly make some amazing looking automobiles (especially that Sagaris).

  3. Does anyone know what the hell is going on with TVR now? Did they finally go into receivership, were they bought by someone else, and if so, by whom and what country are they from, and if they’re not insolvent, is there any actual production occuring wherever their new plant might be?

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