Connaught Motor Company announced March 29 that it will build the world’s first green, high-performance hybrid sports coupe at a new plant in southwest Wales. The company is also relocating its entire research and development division to a business incubator in Wales from England.
Production of the new car – the Connaught Type D – begins this year, and the first consumer models are expected to be delivered in early 2008. The first model will be the limited edition four-seater, the Connaught Type D GT Syracuse, with a V10 two-liter supercharged 300-horsepower engine.
The Syracuse will be followed by the hybrid version – the Connaught Type-D V10 sports coupe. The coupe will be powered by a V10 hybrid gasoline/electric engine that will deliver a top speed of 150 miles per hour (mph), with acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds and 42 miles per gallon.
It will be the world’s first truly high-performance hybrid sports coupe, is patent protected, and delivers a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to vehicles in its class. Unlike most startup companies, which use standard engines, Connaught has designed its own engine and power train from scratch.
The £12 million ($25 million) investment will create 200 new highly skilled jobs over the next three years. The company expects to recruit 30 engineers in the first year. Connaught anticipates building 100 cars in the first year, 250 in the second year, and ultimately increasing to 1,000 in year five.
Fred Page-Roberts, chairman of Connaught, said the decision to move the company to Wales and to manufacture in-house was taken because of the high level of support from the Assembly Government and its International Business Wales team, and because of the skilled labor force, and the academic and automotive infrastructure in Wales.
“Wales has the available skill sets for the sector, a highly developed supply chain and considerable academic expertise that provides a winning combination,” Page-Roberts said.
Geraint Jones, head of IBW in North American, praised Connaught as “a highly innovative, technology driven company led by an extremely experienced and talented team. The company’s focus on alternative fuel technology and niche vehicle capability is of particular interest to us in Wales and has a synergy with the work already under development in this field through our automotive clusters program.”
The Connaught Technical Centre, a custom designed 60,000-square-foot plant that will include R&D facilities, design workshops and office accommodation, will be built at Llanelli Gate in 2009. Until then, the company will lease temporary, and interim manufacturing space in Llanelli.
Connaught is the second company addressing a niche in the automotive industry to locate in Wales in the last two years. Narrow Car Company is developing a two-seater vehicle designed for urban drivers that will deliver 100 miles per gallon. Stevens Vehicles will manufacture small electrical vehicles to meet demands for zero noise and pollutant requirements.
Connaught chief executive Tony Martindale and his partner Tim Bishop acquired the Connaught brand in 2002 and unveiled the new vehicle in 2006, when it won the Specialist Car Manufacturer of the Year Award from Autoexpress magazine.
Throughout the 1950's, Connaught produced a series of successful and highly innovative cars that were driven on both the open road and racetrack. A Connaught car, driven by Tony Brooks, won the Syracuse Grand Prix in 1995, the first time that a British designed car, driven by a British racer, won a Formula One Grand Prix. The new Connaught cars revive that tradition in their body construction and their engine. Advanced lightweight composites and carbon/aluminum body panels keep the weight of the car below one ton.
Garel Rhys, professor emeritus at Centre for Automotive Research, Cardiff University Business School and authority on the automotive industry recalled that: “Within motor sports, the Connaught brand is not only highly regarded but also remembered with affection. Its cars were driven by many famous drivers of the day, including Stirling Moss.”
Professor Garel Rhys also said that the sports coupe market had grown rapidly over the last few years and there is no direct competition for the Connaught, particularly the hybrid model designed to improve CO2 emissions and fuel economy.