It’s been a big year so far for Caterham, which recently came under the wing of Japanese retail group VT Holdings and gave the first details of an all-electric version of the Seven, due in the coming years.
Another important announcement from the British sports car brand was the high-profile appointment of Bob Laishley as its new chief strategic officer, a position in which he will manage the rollout of new products and strive to keep the company thriving – and, crucially, compliant – as the automotive industry continues to transform.
A self-professed “car guy”, Laishley is best known for his work at Nissan, where, as global sports car programme director, he oversaw such heavy-hitting performance models as the 370Z and GT-R. Laishley spoke exclusively to Autocar about his immediate priorities at Caterham, outlining what needs to be done to see the brand safely past its half-century in 2023.
How have your first few weeks in the job been?
“It’s still early days. The first thing to say is that the guys in Dartford are doing an amazing job. There’s nothing broken with the business and the product’s great. It’s just about getting my feet under the table and learning a lot. Of course, I knew a lot about Caterham from the outside, but being inside is somewhat different. I’m trying to assimilate myself with more than 50 years’ history of the car, and to Electric Seven will have “that raw driving experience” Bob Laishley joined as strategy boss after a top role at Nissan Nissan performance boss takes control of the British sports car maker’s future understand that what we do in the future protects that heritage. That’s the most sacrosanct thing: to not do anything that will damage that long, long heritage.
“Frankly, I’m really pleased and surprised with the reaction from a lot of people in the industry. The great and good of the automotive industry still say [the Seven] is the benchmark for everything that they do. It’s really quite humbling, and the responsibility of joining this group of people is not lost on me.
“I retired from Nissan just over a year ago and the plan was to do some consulting, but the new owners have coaxed me back into this role and there’s not many that would have pulled me out of what I was doing."