Over thirty years ago a teenage Steve Morris turned up at the gates of the Morgan factory asking for a job. Having been brought up in a small village just outside Malvern, he grew up watching precious Morgan models driving out of the factory. If you liked mechanics and you wanted to work in that world, you were in the right place. His father took him to the factory and after three failed attempts, trying to get a job, he gave him that extra little push with a blunt – “get in there and ask for a job”-. What Steve couldn’t imagine is that he would fall into a a world full of opportunities, apprenticeship and passion, and after a thirty-seven-year journey that he would go from a mechanical apprentice to the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) for one of the most characteristic automobile companies in the world.
Mr. Morris talked to us over the phone in the middle of a global pandemic that has paralized almost the whole planet. On the 25th of March the factory closed for the second time in its history, the time before it was due to the Second World War, which makes us understand how transcendental the moment is. – “Working at the factory implies a great deal of contact” – Steve tells us – “between employees, suppliers and customers that visit our facilities. which is impossible due to this Covid-19 related situation. Besides following the OMS and NHS UK guidelines, we have to safeguard our family’s health, the Morgan Motor Company is an emormous, closeknit family joined by a common objective and we can’t put any of our members’ health in danger.”
The factory has been closed but several activities have gone on; our technicians have kept on working remotely and developing new projects virtually; customer service has kept on working and thanks to telework their promotional work has been put onto their website and their social network accounts. – “Before this pandemic we were manufacturing 18 or 19 cars a week” – Steve pointed out – “as and when we can guarantee our work team’s health and safety and the authorities allow as to resume manufacturing, we’ll be back, although it may have to be gradual at first and with a lower activity level. We have analysed the situation and carried out demand forecasts that we will meet progressively.”
When talking to Steve that teenager who never loses illusion nor eagerness as for being on key and leading a team of professionals who are able to design, manufacture and assemble a unique vehicle, appears from time to time. This attitude allows Morgan Motor to face a promising future. Following the majority shareholding acquisition by Investindustrial, the family kept a minor representation, many Morgan fans were worried about if this could be a turning point and a possible loss of values and personality in Morgan vehicles.
“Nothing further from the truth” – assures Steve – “having a solid investor and a veteran team of professionals is fascinating from a company management point of view. Investindustrial’s willingness was clear from the start: Preserving the brand’s attributes, its DNA and taking Morgan Motor Company to the next level. The investment at the Pickerleigh Road facilities has never been questioned, which has been fantastic over the last year as well as being the best investment carried out, without a doubt. The Morgan fans should know that our investors are also very passionate about our brand, they understand the craftmanship that goes into manufacturing a car, they know the history behind Morgan, its personality, our fans’ support… everything is safeguarded and guaranteed.”
Keeping up with tradition and boosting the investment, is the strategy that seems to reign in Malvern, which assures the brand continuing to manufacture cars that make its customers fall in love.
“I can’t believe that any of us could ask for a more commited shareholder or investment team” – Steve tells us – “the ones we have now are fantastic and they’re concerned about keeping up tradition, as well as keeping an eye on future investment. Everything necessary to follow legislation and homolgation for our vehicles worldwide, is incredibly complex and costly. Besides, investing implies obligations, they have to be aware of what they are investing in. There is always something that I share with our customers, dealers, suppliers and the whole Morgan world: The current situation will strengthen Morgan’s presence in the market, as well as allowing us to keep on manufacturing marvellous cars.”
Thanks to the new company structure, the staff participating in company capital has also been possible. – “It is a fascinating journey” – says Steve – “they bring us an exceptional commitment, I’m lost for words when thanking them for their support to me and our management team; all of this at this critical time, such a big, unknown crisis, which we are facing. It’s absolutely essential for us to make the most of this opportunity of having each other, on hand to help each other. If we were still part of a family company, we would be facing a much more severe economic challenge than the one we are facing nowadays. It’s not that we don’t have a challenge on our hands, we do, but it’s important to recognize that having this industrial investment and such a big support, allows us to face the challenges that we are to come.”
This new company structure allows the company to make the most of the knowledge that their investors and their contacts bring to the table, as well as the depth of their knowledge of the automobile and business sectors and how we must face challenges as for sustainability, the environment and innovation. “I have a great respect towards them, towards their passion” – Steve confesses – “Being in this business for over 37 years and you see that someone comes along, bringing passion and strengthens you. Listening to what Morgan means for the world, from the horse’s mouth, as well as what it means to the biggest shareholding group, it’s exciting and sharing it is really fascinating. I’m so glad about the moment we’re going through at Morgan and I’m really happy”.
While Morgan Motor Company is consolidating its position and facing, as all other productive sectors are, the new market conditions due to Covid19, our society evolves towards greater sustainability. Cities and users are calling for increasingly safe and less polluting vehicles. Taking into account that Morgan is a company that bases its productive model on mechanical craftsmanship, some solutions can mean a loss of spirit in classical vehicles. But Steve Morris clears up our doubts about the reconcilement between the Morgan concept and the regulation as for safety and pollution. Will Morgan keep on making cars with wooden frame in ten years? Will we ever see an electric Morgan? – “The future ahead will be quite a challenge” – says Steve – “the rules are changing globally, but Morgan is in a different league, that of craftsmanship and I like to combine that terminology, craftsmanship and technology, and seeing how they come together in our vehicles. It’s very important to showcase the concept of soul, our cars have a soul, due to the way that they are made, and that’s not going to change. In the same way that we have managed other transformations, we are very agile and swift when adapting to innovative processes. Morgan cars are very different from the rest of other vehicles due to that soul that they contain and in the face of a range of products which is increasingly more digital, we find analogical concepts that are to do with leisure. What we do differentiates us from a whole industry.”
In the same way that Steve was hired at the Morgan factory as an apprentice over 30 years ago, nowadays, in the middle of the XXI century there is still a training system which is based on an apprenticeship system for new employees which combines craftsmanship with new technology, something which is very important for the brand.
Steve admits to us – “The wooden structure in the car is a very important element to us and not only because it gives our cars’ character, but it also acts as a good safety element. Many companies manufacture elements with wood because it’s a natural material, it absorbs energy, it’s easy to work with and it allows craftsmanship in our work. We carry out a lot of tests on our vehicles and it’s funny, but a lot if our trials are done in Spain, very close to Barcelona. A lot of these tests take place at some fantastic facilities where, not only do we operate ourselves, but many other international manufacturers also use the same testing facilities. We will find a way to keep on making a difference, regarding the way we manufacture our cars, preserving our craftsmanship skills as well as combining them with technology.”
Technology is a synonym of sustainability and we see an increasing number of electric vehicles in brands that we would have never thought that it would develop an electric model. Porsche is already saying that in the future our grandchildren will make races with toy cars that don’t go ‘broom broom’ because they will all be electric models, with no noise. And what about Morgans? Steve has the answer – “Morgans are very associated to the leisure sector. This is our position. If we look back about a hundred or a hundred and twenty years ago, people went to work on their horses, they used their horses to plough their fields, for transport. For everything. Nowadays, nobody goes to work on their horses but they do enjoy horse-riding at the weekends, having a ride in the countryside, following routes… while we have the opportunity to manufacture this type of car, complying with all the rules and legislation, there will always be room for other types of propulsion whether petrol, diesel or other methods in our spare time. Eleven years ago, in 2009, we made a hydrogen vehicle; it was way before its time! We have also manufactured an electric “concept car” with three wheels and another one with four wheels. It’s a field that we are working on. We are vehicle manufacturers and we do so within the leisure sector. We’re going to keep going in that field and we will keep on adapting to new trends. This means that we’ll manufacture electric vehicles, as well as manufacturing other vehicles. Everything’s just a question of time, other realities will come along, forcing us to make the shift towards electrification and hydrogenation as alternative types of combustion. Watch this space for Morgan and what we’re doing, right now the market and our suppliers oblige us to work in a very mainstream fashion, but we are going through a very interesting moment as for market evolution.”
Morgan Motor know, very well, who they are and they don’t make out to be anything but that. We’re moving towards a trend led by mobility, a relaxation in terms of concepts and owning a car is becoming less and less important. If what you are looking for is a daily mode of transport to get to the supermarket, to the park, to work or anywhere else, you can use carsharing, a scooter, a bike… But Morgan is part of a legend and they want it to stay that way. Steve tells us that – “we can be a trigger to some of the prime mainstream concepts as for mobility. In the face of a generational change that is moving away from ownership, getting a driver’s license at a later age, seeking freedom and independence on social networks or low-cost travelling rather than purchasing a vehicle, Morgan proffers driving a car with soul, in the open air, experimenting an analogical concept, based on craftsmanship, on your leisure time, spending quality time with your loved ones and on what people want to do in their free time, that’s why it’s so important to try and maintain that focus based on leisure and on what people want to do in their free time. We are an antidote to a digital world where we are incresingly trapped.”
Steve bids us farewell by talking about the outskirts of Barcelona, well, he travels to the testing circuit on a regular basis to carry out test on his cars, but he has never driven a Morgan on our tarmac. He has also had the opportunity to see Mallorca with his family and he admits that he still has yet to discover, so many roads and corners that can only be appreciated from a Morgan.
Steve Morris sends kind greetings to all our members and fans all over Spain on behalf of all the Morgan family, which is also, our own.
Interview: Eduardo Sanchiz
Wording: Frank Moreno
Translation: Julie Calcott