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2004 Los Angeles Auto Show

posted Nov 15, 2010, 4:07 PM by L.D. McLaughlin Jr.
Dale Jewitt, January 1, 2004
LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW: Morgan to bring the Aero 8 to the United States

By Dale Jewett Automotive News / December 30, 2003

2004 Los Angeles Auto Show index

LOS ANGELES -- For the past four years, Charles Morgan has focused on ensuring that the classic car design that carries the family's name is prepared for the future.

Morgan's strategy for accomplishing that is embodied in the two-seat Aero 8, which has sold more than 300 units in Europe over the past 18 months. Now the family-owned company is prepared to bring it to U.S. customers next year.

But creating the Aero 8 has called for the same type of entrepreneurial daring-do that would be understood by those willing to pay $95,000 for the car.

"The company has been absolutely stretched to build this car for the U.S. market," said Morgan at the Los Angeles auto show on Tuesday. He would not say how much money the company spent on the project.

"Now we need the support of the customer," said Morgan, managing director of Morgan Motor Co. and grandson of founder H.F.S. Morgan.

The money was spent to develop a car with an aluminum chassis that is glued and riveted together, covered by aluminum body panels and powered by a BMW engine. In preparation for U.S. sales, the interior has been enlarged slightly and amenities such as air conditioning and window defrosters have been added.

The Aero 8, which weighs only 2,500 pounds, meets U.S. and European safety and emissions regulations.

The company expects to sell 100 Aero 8s in the United States in the last half of 2004, after production of the U.S. version begins in June at the plant in Malvern Link, England.

Morgan anticipates full-year sales of about 250 cars in 2005. The company has nine franchised dealers in the United States and does not plan to add any more soon.

But the arrival of the Aero 8 will mark the end of U.S. sales for the Morgan Plus 8, a design nearly 40 years old that won't meet U.S. regulations for the 2004 model year. Morgan sold 90 units of the Plus 8 in the United States in 2003, its best year ever in the market, a spokesman said.

Charles Morgan said the company is planning to bring a second model to the U.S. market in two or three years that would be priced around $50,000. But that car would not be a revised version of the Plus 8.

"I am absolutely embarrassed that the Aero 8 costs $95,000, I wanted that car to be $50,000," Morgan said. "But that was the cost of getting the car we thought was right."

The company leaned heavily on BMW AG for help in creating the Aero 8, which has been on sale in Europe for 18 months. Morgan buys the car's 4.4-liter V-8 engine from BMW, and two BMW engineers have been working on the car's development for two years.

Morgan said it was important to him that the Aero 8 was designed from the ground up as a driver's car. Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes and variable ratio power steering. But technologies such as traction control or stability control aren't available.

Morgan said, "That is the difference between us and volume manufacturers. I believe the car can sell itself."