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Aussie engineering firm Premcar goes global
Premcar, once known as Prodrive, partners with RLE International for global reach
27 Jan 2017
By NEIL DOWLING
AUSTRALIAN automotive engineering firm Premcar, previously known as Prodrive Automotive Technology Australia and for its role in developing cars for the Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) brand, has formed a partnership with global engineering company RLE International.
While development on local vehicles has formed the bulk of Premcar’s workload in the past, the demise of Australian automotive manufacturing meant the engineering firm had to expand outside its usual scope, a moved helped by the alliance with RLE International.
Premcar engineering director Bernie Quinn said the financial tie-up that saw RLE buy a minority stake in Premcar reflected synergies between the two companies.
“RLE is very strong in body design, electrical engineering, program management, roadster competence and lightweight engineering, while we are strong in other areas including powertrain, performance development and chassis development,” he said.
Premcar was responsible for the majority of the development work for the FPV F6, GT and the GT F, as well as the special-edition Ford Falcon Sprint six- and eight-cylinder models.
“We did the Miami 5.0-litre V8 from top to bottom, including the supercharger, engine internals, exhaust and so on,” Mr Quinn said.
“The FPV GT was a car that had tremendous engineering work done here and is a milestone for the achievements of Australian engineers.
“It was done by us with a lot of unique parts and designs – among them, it had a unique engine (the supercharged Miami V8), powertrain control system, suspension, wheels, brakes and bodykit.”
Partnering with RLE is a rebound for Premcar founders who watched in 2012 as its main income source of FPV disappeared.
“If you had asked me in 2012 what I thought about Premcar’s future, I would say the business had a hard road ahead of it,” Mr Quinn said.
“I would have given it, at best, 50:50 chance of surviving. We had a fantastic business. FPV produced some great vehicles and unique engines – the Miami V8 particularly – and components.
“I would look at the turning point – the upward part of the graph – as 2015 when the currency shift was a trigger to sudden interest in our work.
“We started to get more enquiries from around the world and we started to gain momentum.
“Now, less than five years later, we can see that the loss of local manufacturing is not affecting us. We are flat out in product development and that is a growing industry in Australia.
“The level of growth is crazy.”
As GoAuto has reported, Premcar engineers have been involved in a variety of programs including significant chassis work on Geely vehicles such as the GC9 (Bo Rui) flagship large sedan.
Other work for Chinese manufacturers has included tuning the suspension of the controversial Landwind X7, which was roundly criticised for its design mimicry of the Range Rover Evoque.
RLE, which works with car-makers including BMW, Ford, McLaren and Aston Martin, is headquartered in Germany and has offices around the world, including the UK, China, the US, India and Spain.
“It didn’t have representation in Australia and it recognised that Premcar had some skills and capabilities that were complementary to its existing capabilities,” Mr Quinn told GoAuto.
“So, they contacted us and after six months, we formed a partnership.”
Mr Quinn said it gives RLE a foothold into the Australian auto industry which, according to him, is expanding fast, while also giving Premcar a chance to work on the global stage to assist RLE’s customers.
He said that for customers, the partnership means that Premcar can offer a 24-hour work cycle, with projects continuing uninterrupted on both sides of the globe to reduce development times.
The partnership has also branched into labour recruiting and contract supply, according to Mr Quinn.
“Australia is expanding its design and engineering responsibilities which gives more opportunities for us,” he said.
“There is a strong demand for engineers in Australia and some, now work for Ford, GM Holden, Toyota and us.
“So, we started a new business of labour leasing called RLE International Australia.
“It’s a second business division for us that allows companies to source engineers for their projects. For example, we can place engineers inside companies to work under their supervision to deliver engineering programs.”
Mr Quinn also praised the local engineering workforce at brand’s including Holden, Ford and Toyota and that the partnership with RLE would allow for interchangeability on a global level.
“There’s a rich source in Australia,” he said. “Working with RLE means we can also source engineers from RLE’s 1800 staff around the world to work in Australia and vice versa, so we can supply engineers to or from any RLE office.
“We have started discussions on exporting expertise into the UK to help RLE customers there.”
Aside from the automotive sector, Premcar has also recently completed its first job for a customer in the aviation industry.
“It is new ground for us,” he said. “We were approached by the company to apply auto product development disciplines to the aviation market.
“The job took 18 months and the client was very happy with our work. We now expect a lot of work in the aviation field over the next five years.
“The same processes and principles that we use in automotive, and now in aviation, can also be applied to marine and defence industries. It has led us to pick up some work with a defence supply company.”
However, Mr Quinn remains strongly bonded to the performance-car market.
“There are very strong chances of us working on more performance cars in the near future,” he said.
“We have expertise here. It’s a part of the (auto) business that has small production volumes and that makes us think lean and agile.
“We have become very efficient at making strong business cases and delivering engineering programs for small production volumes, sometimes less than 500 units.
“The business case for performance cars is also very strong. These cars are loved by customers and they are prepared to pay a premium for the engineering quality.”
Premcar comes from a solid line of automotive engineering companies in Australia, evolving from Tickford Vehicle Engineering that started in Australia in 1996, then to Prodrive Automotive Technology that began operations here in 2001.
Premcar came out of a 2012 management buyout of Prodrive and picked up most of the core staff and executives.
“These are exciting times for Premcar and RLE, we are projecting sales growth in the region of 200 per cent over the next three years in Australia,” Mr Quinn said.
RLE International managing director Robert Rupa said his company was excited about the collaboration.
“For RLE International, we now have a partner in Premcar and RLE International Australia that will complement our global presence,” he said.
“It’s great news for us, our customers, and the industry.”
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