Mid-engined £30k sports car on the way, along with driverless pods
The way legislation is moving, you wouldn’t expect firms like Westfield Sportscars to have much a future. They’ve been doing quite nicely putting out kit cars from their well-used West Midlands industrial unit, but the increasing age of the customer base and the dwindling demand for small lightweight sports cars surely points towards a bleak long-term future.
Not to managing director Julian Turner it doesn’t. For Turner, Westfield is not an old-fashioned backyard builder on the slippery slope, but a surging new-tech company.
“There’s growth on the car sales side, which is really good,” Turner says. “The UK [demand] stays pretty constant, but exports are going great guns. It’s the business that generates the cash flow for us to do other things. It’s our bread and butter.”
If you want a new Westfield in 2017, you can choose between a Lotus Seven-alike sportster car, a 1950s-style Lotus Eleven-inspired Westfield XI, or an XTR track car. The annual output amounts to around 150 cars, most of them bought in kit form.
The exciting news is that Westfield is working on a new mid-engined, steel-spaceframed sports car that’s due to start production in 2018. Available in coupé or roadster formats, the GTM will tip the scales at under 1000kg and have a choice of combustion engine, hybrid or full electric powertrains – all of which will become available for the existing range as well.
The hybrid model uses a new Wankel rotary engine, developed by Westfield and put together by another West Mids firm, Advanced Innovative Engineering. This single-rotor unit produces 130bhp from its 650cc and weighs just 28kg, making it perfect for hybrid application in a lightweight sports like the GTM.
The regular internal combustion version will use a 252bhp Ford Ecoboost turbo four, as already used in the Sport 250 Seven-alike. A full electric model using a British-sourced motor and batteries will have a 200-mile range.
At around £30,000 a pop, Westfield is aiming to hit an annual production volume of 1000 GTMs by 2022. It could be fully autonomous too. “You could use a GTM for an hour to have a bit of fun, then somebody else can,” says Turner. “We’re going to turn into the Boeing or Airbus of the automotive world, selling these vehicles to fleet operators more and more.”
Westfield is also a leader in autonomous battery-powered city centre pods, a market that Turner reckons will be worth £925 billion by 2025. They’ve already sold £30 million worth of these six-seater, 20mph vehicles (at £150,000 each) to the South Korean government. Like the other Westfields, they’re spaceframed and plastic-bodied. Using autonomous systems developed by Bristol-based Fusion Processing, they’re being trialled in the UK at places like Greenwich (where they connect the train station to the water taxi) and on the University of the West of England campus.
“We’ve already done five million miles with this vehicle and taken 3.5 million commercial passengers,” says Turner. “We’re ahead of a lot of people, including Google, with this technology. We’re a market leader.”
Westfield’s plan is to ramp pod production up to 100 a year in 2018. Company headcount has doubled in the last 12 months – and Turner thinks it will double again in the next twelve. He says the potential order book for Westfield’s pods stands at £200m.
“We’ve got to do stuff quickly to stay in the game,” he says. “Compared with our competitors, we’re well ahead. We’ve already got 15 years of electric and hybrid capability and now we’ve got autonomous capability too.”