First up, letʼs get one thing straight - the title of this story refers to the slope of the site of the ‘works’, not the fortunes of the Morgan Motor Company, which are, thankfully, rising.
The Company will sell just over 1200 cars in 2013 - a record for the small, auto atelier based in the beautiful Malvern Hills in the south west of England. Its hand-built cars are treasured by their owners, many remaining in the same family after the owners’ death. Even now, the waiting time for a Morgan still hovers around a year from ordering!
Until recently, Charles Morgan, grandson of the founder Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, presided over the production of the car worldʼs most contemporary anachronism. Thanks in part to a lack of ʻprogressive modernismʼ.
This could have been at the heart of a recent management decision to remove Charles as head of the company. Now bound up in a Group, called Morgan Technologies, which was incorporated in 2010, Morgan Cars is increasing its rate of production - a decision bitterly opposed by Charles.
The new Managing Director, Steve Woods, who together with Charles Morgan was, from 2003-2010, part of a ‘management team’ , says Morgan needs to take advantage of new developments, cut the waiting time for a car and improve profits. This suggests that Charles Morgan, like his father Peter before him, and the founder, Henry Morgan felt that the ‘old way’ of doing things was just fine.
The company was founded by HFS Morgan in 1909 and its first model was a three-wheeler, designed and built around a tax structure for motor vehicles which favoured less than four wheels, thus not competing with four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriages, which were still popular in the early 1900s.
Today Morgan Cars employs around 170 people. Virtually all of them craftsmen and women, who toil over hand-made cars like no other factory in the world today.
Yet, despite the age old car-making traditions; the quaint assembly line process; and the smell of sawn ash timber, the Morgan Motor Company is as modern as it needs to be.
Although the waiting list for a car might be 1-2 years, the product will be the result of a company which has achieved ISO 9001 quality certification, so it’s definitely modernized many of its processes.
In 2007 just 640 cars flowed from the antiquated production process, where the ‘build’ begins in a large garage at the top of the hill, and as the vehicle reaches a particular stage in the manufacturing process, it is moved down the hill, to the next building.
The five buildings, descend the hill, to where the trim shop, and the new ‘final finish’ area awaits the cars.
A tour of the factory (which can be pre-arranged) is an eye-opener, because what looks like a period movie set surprises with many innovative manufacturing ideas lurking behind the apparently old-fashioned car-building methods.
The integrity of the structure, and tolerances are impressively tight for a hand-assembled product; the paint job is exceptional and the care and attention to detail of the assembly is enough to convince any would-be buyer that this is a car which has been lovingly put together, just for them.
The workers are a jolly lot, and the vibe in the ‘works’ is positive, confident and calm. Maybe that’s the secret - just like happy, contented free-range hens going about the business of laying eggs.
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