Russian to sell to two Floridians; TVR will be 'virtual car company'

TVR's tortuous ownership saga continues. It emerged today, at a low-key press conference held at a hotel on London's Mayfair, that current company owner Nikolai Smolenski is planning to sell the sports car firm to two Florida-based business partners, Adam Burdette and Jean Michel Santacreu.

The Americans' first contact with TVR, made 18 months ago, was as potential importers of the cars to the USA. The pair, who live in Orlando, will rapidly take over control of TVR from the Russian-born 'baby oligarch', as the new faces of the management.

They envisage a 5000-cars-a-year future for Blackpool's best-known automotive brand, and claim they already have firm orders for 2000 cars from dealers in the USA. However, they also believe that, in future, only between 250 and 500 cars a year will be sold in the UK – and that none of those cars will be built here.

TVR is on course to become a 'virtual' car company, whose only tangibles will be the brand, its UK-based day-to-day management, and a 20-strong team of engineers and designers.

Under present plans, TVR will have a collection of partners to manufacture its bodies, chassis, primary components and castings. Shoreham-based Ricardo Engineering will develop and assemble the engines, and final assembly of cars will be at Bertone in Italy. Many of these links have been mooted in the past but have fallen dormant; the partners have the next few weeks to re-activate them.

TVR's new owners (Smolenski expects to take no part) believe they can be making cars within three months. The cars will be updated versions of the Sagaris and Tuscan, possibly with new names and new-shape bodies), but the tubular backbone chassis and slant-six engine (updated with Bosch electronics to Euro IV standard) will be based on the familiar models.

Prices will be held at present levels, according to the Smolenski-appointed managing director, David Oxley, who will be assisting the new owners 'for a period of time'.

Steve Cropley

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