STUDENTS ON Coventry’s automotive-related courses were served up a treat last week when Aston Martin chairman David Richards gave a guest lecture at Coventry Conversations. Writes Mark Rainford
Speaking in the Graham Sutherland building to a packed out audience, David Richards CBE spoke of his varied glittering career in the motoring industry and defended the state of Britain’s car-making industry.
As founder and chairman of Prodrive and as one of the men recognised for rescuing the Aston Martin, Richards knows more than most about the state of the industry. Whilst recognising that the number of people employed in the industry has seen a decline, he noted: “We make more cars now than we did 20 years ago. We’ve just become more efficient”.
In addition to pointing out that both Honda and Nissan have invested heavily in factories In the UK, he also sang the praises of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plants, describing them as a “gem” in the GM stable.
Coventry is well known for its motoring heritage and the university continues to showcase the best of UK’s design and engineering talent, and Richards recognizes that “there’s more demand for British designers and engineers than anywhere else”.
So what of Formula One’s recent problems? Richard’s Prodrive applied to be one of the four new teams in Formula One in 2010 but wasn’t selected. Though he didn’t express any bitterness towards the decision, he pointed out that with manufacturers dropping out of the sport and independents once again taking the reins, “next year is going to be a real watershed year for F1”.
Finally he had a few kind words for his best friend and World Rally Championship winning team-mate Ari Vatanen who was beaten to the presidency of motor-sport’s governing body, the FIA, by ex-Ferrari team principal Jean Todt. “Ari’s a great character”, he said: “he would have made a good president”
By Mark Rainford