Dyson goes into EVs – another British ‘garagiste’?

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Last week the news broke that James Dyson, who made billions from his top end vacuum cleaners, has admitted he’s invested £2.5bn in developing a new EV. This certainly got social media chattering excitedly, but if you burrow into the details it looks as if it will only be for luxury end cars – another tiny UK luxury car brand that Enzo Ferrari once branded as ‘garagistes’.

Let’s look at the facts

One of the first news outlets to break the news was the Guardian. It stated, “The billionaire who revolutionised the vacuum cleaner said 400 engineers in Wiltshire had been working since 2015 on the £2.5bn project.”

The same newspaper actually broke this story in 2016 but it wasn’t noticed. On the 23rd March 2016 an eagle eyed Guardian journalist reported they had spotted it in a government report: “The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174m of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering,” said the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, published on Wednesday.”

Dyson had sent an email to his employees last week, breaking cover. The Guardian reported, “The Wiltshire-based company has a team of 400 engineers on the project, which has been under wraps for two and a half years. But he consumer technology firm is moving into the cut-throat world of car manufacturing with a blank sheet of paper – it has an electric motor, but no chassis and no manufacturing plant.”

Not mass market

Dyson has become synonymous with upper mid-range vacuum cleaners, a must-have for the Audi driving chattering classes. If you’re driving a low end Audi hatchback you won’t be able to afford a Dyson EV, so button up your wallet. It will be more for those who are driving the Audi R8 or Tesla Model S at the very least.

The online news site Forbes straightened this out: “Dyson acknowledged that the vehicles his company was developing would be premium-priced, like his other products.”

Enzo Ferrari once famously said in reference to the British sports car makers who used to be his main rivals on the Grand Prix circuit, “Garagistes! Assembliatore!” ‘Garagiste’ is a word Ferrari invented that was derogatory to the small UK sports car manufacturers, and ‘Assembliatore’ refers to the fact that they used other car makers’ parts to build them. OK, so Dyson is using a lot of his own technology (to include his own solid state batteries) and the machine won’t be a sports car. It will however be a niche luxury end machine that only car nuts with sizeable bank accounts will be able to afford.

The UK has dozens of these brands and Dyson couldn’t be better placed geographically (that is, in the UK) to do it. While we don’t know how much the cars will cost, they won’t be competing with the Tesla Model 3 but more likely the Model S or possibly something a little more niche for Dyson’s billionaire mates…

By Richard Shrubb

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