Why a small Coventry-based engineering firm is opening up in California

David Brown Speedback GT

Describing itself as a “miniature OEM”, Envisage is capitalising on the start-up culture of the Sunshine State

Envisage is a well-known name in the automotive industry, but probably one you’ve never heard of.

It can do everything from designing cars to low-volume manufacture, yet most its customers are top secret. What we do know is that they built the David Brown Speedback GT and work with Jaguar Land Rover.

But now, engineering boss Paul Arkesden, tells me the firm is looking to North America for its next wave of business. So much so, the team are currently talking to 15 start-ups on the West Coast – nine of which they have active projects with – and it’s opening up a design and engineering studio in Fremont, near San Francisco.

The LA motor show, then, is the perfect place to network for Envisage. Arkesden, formerly engineering boss at McLaren’s MSO division, already knows plenty of people and reckons most plenty of start-ups here are headed up by Brits.

Find out everything else we’ve learned in LA

From all these conversations, Arkesden is also at the forefront of upcoming trends in the industry. “It is all about the interior of the vehicle, the customer experience, colour, materials and finish,” he said.

He named wood and concrete as two materials which are becoming popular to stand out from the masses, as well as regenerative materials. “For example, steering wheel materials get scratched, so you might look at a collagen-based material which is self-repairing.”

Another popular focus is fragrance in a car: “It’s about looking at ways of making that car smell new after 20 years, for instance,” Arkesden said.

He admits that working with traditional OEMs means Envisage’s involvement is hardly ever known. But it’s different with start-ups: “This new wave of companies is much more open to collaboration. With the established OEMs, there is zero exposure.”

All of which suggests Envisage’s work will become much more familiar in the coming years.

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Source: Autocar Online

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