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Prodrive's fast track into Asia
British engineering outfit's Asia-Pacific growth hinges on Toyota and Ford planks
6 Feb 2007
BRITISH-BASED vehicle-engineering outfit Prodrive intends to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region with performance cars currently being developed in partnership with Ford and Toyota.
The Melbourne-based managing director of Prodrive’s automotive technology across Asia-Pacific, Bryan Mears, told GoAuto last week the company’s expansion in the region hinged on the cars it is working on in Australia.
These include high-performance derivatives of Ford’s Australian-built Falcon sedan and Territory SUV, as well as Toyota’s Aurion sedan.
Prodrive is the majority (51 per cent) stakeholder in Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV). It also operates and staffs the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) facility, which will release a TRD-branded Aurion this year.
The latter will be based on the supercharged Aurion Sports Concept shown at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney last October. Other TRD products in the pipeline include high-performance versions of the HiLux utility and Corolla small car.
"I believe that we could head in that direction (where the Asia business dwarfs Australia) and it depends really on the development of the market for performance derivatives in Australia," Mr Mears told GoAuto.
"It seems to me that it’s intuitive that our business could develop more in the Asia area because they are huge markets."
Left: Bryan Mears. Prodrive already has a regional office in Shanghai, which opened late last year, and Mr Mears believes it could be a heavyweight player in the region in the long-term. He said Toyota’s future potential with the TRD brand in the Middle East was also attractive.
"I think it would only be for me to speculate about how that would go," he said. "We are committed to driving better quality product for TRD and I have to say that’s also our aspiration for FPV."Mr Mears said the FPV and TRD businesses were separately managed and did not present a conflict of interest, despite the fact the TRD Aurion will be in direct competition with FPV Falcons.
"I don’t think that business model is unique," he said. "I could go to any number of companies around the world that have that situation and in fact that I could go to Ford and Holden and say that, ‘Are there many businesses that you deal with that deal with our opposition?’ and they’d probably list hundreds.
"Our business, my business here, is to do with automotive technology," Mr Mears said. "We are at the top end of that thinking in automotive engineering. And on that basis we are a niche player.
"The companies that we are working with throughout the region understand mostly what we’re about and are looking for us to not only supply solutions for their automotive engineering problems, but also training, coaching and mentoring."Although he would not divulge just which companies they were, he did say "there’s quite a strong relationship developing with a number of companies in the region on that basis", citing Prodrive’s relationship with Subaru over the past 20 years.
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