Author Topic: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers  (Read 156 times)

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Offline BDA

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Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« on: Wednesday,July 12, 2017, 09:23:25 PM »
I had a talk with Dave Bean this afternoon and one of the things we talked about is how everybody's retiring. He's planning to retire soon. Ray at r.d. will retire soon. Richard will probably retire in the not too distant future and that's not to mention the health problems he's had since I've known about him. Beyond that though, Dave said he's had problems replacing machinists and pattern makers who have retired. And all that reminded me of how my local MG club is trying to get younger kids interested in these old classic sports cars - most of the people who own, drive, and love them are, well, geezers! I was emailing cal44 a while ago and he sold all his Loti at least partially because he felt the market for them would never be better since younger people didn't seem interested in cars like ours (cal44 left the forum in Oct. 2014 and he's still the 7th most prolific poster!).


Anyway, my conversation with Dave got me to think about the state of suppliers again and it seems we're nearing somewhat of a crossroads (maybe primarily for us in the States and Canada, but I wonder if people in Britain aren't really in the same boat). Dave and Ray will probably work out some succession plan for their businesses. I hope Richard will too (though from what I'm led to believe, Banks is pretty much a one man shop so his succession is a bigger worry, I think). The world of Lotus suppliers will probably change fairly drastically in the coming years and who knows whether that will end up being a good thing.


I bring all this up because it will impact all of us, but I'm not sure what we can do about it (other than buy out a supplier or two). In any case, I thought it might be something some of might want to discuss. After all, the subject really is as much about parts as it is about us - and who "us" might be in the future.


Has anybody thought about this? made plans? worried or curious about the future?

Offline EuropaTC

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday,July 12, 2017, 10:34:13 PM »
On the market value aspect I'm not sure Cal44 is right about the peak, but he's not far off the mark.  I'm 65 so the 60s made a big impact on young Brian, Emma Peel in her Lotus Elan being one of those factors. My generation has retired and got cash to spend, hence the market bubble in Elans with Europas being dragged slowly along behind.  I can see it stabilizing at some point as the next generation moves in with it's favourite cars and we're all to old and creaky to get in ours.

But people over here still drive around in Fords from the 20s/30s, and if you want something to compete in the London-Brighton Rally (Vintage) then you need deep pockets, so a market will always exist. I'm more concerned about the market value of our moderns because they are the ones we'll be selling, the Lotus's are toys and you never sell good toys.

As for spares, I think we're in a golden age at the moment. Back in the late 70s UK getting parts for any 60s Lotus was hard work, Lotus had nothing and hence specialists like Christopher Neil set themselves up. I think Richard came on the scene around that time as well.

I'm amazed at some of the parts which are available now, but as you say the current crop of specialists will eventually retire. Maybe they'll run as a cottage industry like Sue Miller does, concentrating on scarce parts with quality foremost or perhaps they'll sell up to the next in line. Paul Matty has retired now and someone else (can't recall) is now running his old business. If there's a market then someone will provide for it.

Worried ? No. My eyes have been opened by some of the folks on this forum. Rod comes first to mind with his creation which is really hand crafted from basic materials, and that's encouraged me to branch out.  I would never have considered changing the OEM brakes on my car in the 70s but now I just think "what's the best solution here ?".   And Alex with his yard full of restorations, sourcing parts and skills such as the latest stainless headers & Al seats he's obtained. The cars are simple and I think I'll be able to keep it going for as long as I want it.  But a 2010's car ?  no, I don't want to keep one of those long term. ECU interfacing with alarms ? circuit boards in an engine bay ? eh ? built in obsolescence.

Future plans ? no, not really although I do keep my eyes out for an NG3, just in case.  But if I could no longer drive it I'd probably just polish it and sit inside making brum-brum noises   ;) 

Offline RoddyMac

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #2 on: Thursday,July 13, 2017, 07:34:28 AM »
The retirement thing has already happened here in Vancouver.  Ten years ago there were 3 of 4 British car shops in town that catered to the MG/Triumph/Jag crowd (and any other cars that borrowed parts).   Now there are none that really stock anything.  The remains of two of the shops are still somewhat around, but one doesn't stock much and the other has closed their parts department permanently.  I used to work at the largest one in town, and I was continually amazed that you could buy nearly every part for your MGB or TR6. 

In regards to the parts supply for Europa's, the "borrowed" parts will be available for quite some time from people like Moss Motors, Moss Europe, Leacy, etc.  But I agree, I am a bit worried about finding the hard to find items, though most can be found if you scrounge around.  We're a bit lucky in that the parts Lotus did build themselves are relatively simple and that the bulk of the parts on the car came from another manufacturer.  Figuring out who Lotus got them from is sometimes the fun. 

Other than that, I do enjoy reverse engineering things and making them from scratch, and with the prices coming down on things like 3d printers, I'm sure in the near future one should be able to make just about anything needed for a Europa.


Offline Rosco5000

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #3 on: Thursday,July 13, 2017, 12:40:23 PM »
Rod, I totally agree with you the parts supplier business has dried up here on the west coast of Canada.  It is a tough business, I worked for a mini specialist myself, Craig's Automotive, he had a decent online/mail order business for the time.  But as pressures built and margins dropped he had to fall back on his day job for security.

I think the best thing we can do to help our marque is to brag about it and have some high quality cars in our community to drive the value of the cars.  Parts prices become less relevant when the final value of the car is "worth" the price invested in the parts.  IMHO we are at a very fine balancing point with a lot of British cars not just our beloved Loti.  The ones that drive the highest sales prices will receive better support in my opinion as the end owner often is more affluent.  Having been in the mini scene, it really is an entry level classic especially 10 years ago and those consumers had a hard time coming up with the cash for parts.  There was volume on their side though with millions of minis having been sold.  But will our awesome little cars we have the detriment of low volume and relatively low value of restored vehicles making justifying the expense hard.  My Dad has done mechanical restorations on pre-WWII cars that are now worth over $1M, there are always someone willing to fix or make a part for one of those cars it seems and an owner willing to pay it.  I know this is all very clinical and I think we mostly own these cars because we love them but we need a few of the true car investors to be interested to drive up price and therefore drive the demand of the of the parts to keep the whole community going.   It is a fine line though as we don't want prices too high the true enthusiast can't afford it but we want the support of the parts dealers/aftermarket community as well.
Ross
1969 Europa S2 - 54/1869 I still can't believe I own one.
1978 Austin Mini - 1275, big brakes
1991 Ford Explorer - Lifted on 33s, custom lift and radius arms
2005 Chrysler 300C - chipped, lowered 22s
2003 GMC Yukon - chipped, lowered
You could say the stable is diverse

Offline 4129R

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #4 on: Thursday,July 13, 2017, 02:30:47 PM »
Having seen Richard's place of work, he could easily pass that on to one who works for him there.

He has quite a lot of stock, so that would need to be sold on to whoever takes over.

His list of where he gets stuff from is very valuable. The cables, the badges, the rubber stuff etc.

The fabrication stuff he sells is quite easy to copy. The door hinges are bought in quantities from someone he commissions to do them.

All very saleable assets, but at what price and who would take it on? I would be tempted, but I am off to Australia in 2-3 years time, and taking all the stock there and shipping it Worldwide could have cost implications and make the whole thing not profitable.

We really need someone to take over Richard's business and contacts, so maybe we as a consortium could contact Richard, and say when the time comes to retire, talk to us, and maybe we could put some money in the pot, buy up his stock and contact list, and see where it goes from there. 

Run as a almost non-profitable business with everyone chipping in to join the supply chain may be the way forward. I just wonder what his turnover is, and how it has changed over the last 10 years, when total restorations are becoming more viable as the sale prices have crept up.

Alex in Norfolk

Offline BDA

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #5 on: Thursday,July 13, 2017, 03:13:03 PM »
Before I get to my comments, let me say I forgot to mention that Don Tingle, who was one of our "Usual Suspects" retired several years ago. IIRC Ray at r.d. bought his stock. So the retirement issue has already started in the States.


I think I agree with everybody. I agree with Brian that as long as there is a market, somebody will want to participate in it. I also agree with Roddy that cross pollination with other Brit cars helps us and 3D printers are amazing and will help us make parts that aren't available. And I think Rosco is right that a lot depends on the value of our cars which has been going up lately (although the TC Special for sale on Hemmings for $36.5K is still for sale almost a month after I found it - but 25 people are watching it!).


I started doing a mental inventory of Lotus parts on my car. There aren't that many which insulates me a little from Lotus suppliers in some cases but marries me to Richard in other cases. Actually, it seems that many of us may be more married to Richard than we may know since he seems to be a major supplier of reproduction parts for other retailers. As I said, Richard's future plans worry me the most (Alex posted about Richard and ideas of how to continue after he retires - which are very interesting - while I wrote this).


I don't anticipate any drastic shortages anytime soon but Dave, Ray, and Richard have a wealth of knowledge (especially Richard), experience, and history that is invaluable and when they are gone, it will take a while for that to be replaced. Admittedly, that sort of knowledge come more into play for the difficult, unusual problems that new owners generally have.


One thing that helps and hurts is that Europas are such a fertile ground for innovation that many of those innovative owners have less dependence on the regular suppliers and thus they get that much less support. On the other hand, they aren't using parts that the rest of the owners need and they might be willing to make the odd part for another owner friend (I'm not making promises of anybody here!). Then, the cars are so simple that you don't need to be a Roddy to either fabricate or have parts fabricated in many cases.


When I took the aforementioned inventory of my car, there were a few parts that I figured would be very difficult to find or reproduce - e.g. the turn signal/washer control stalks on my TC Special.


I think we're fine for the foreseeable future but I do think there is reason to worry down the road (not sure how far). There just aren't that many of these cars left (in spite of the new "Europas" Richard has made) and thin markets make for volatile markets.

Offline 3929R

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #6 on: Thursday,July 13, 2017, 04:14:13 PM »
I don't think all of us qualify for geezerhood, at least not yet. I'm still in my 40s. There are other younger owners lurking around as well. Kids at home and a career may mean were not active in forums. Also, car culture is not dying for younger generations. Take your Europa to a "low rider" show, enter the limbo contest, and I bet you'll experience cheering crowds.

Local parts suppliers have gone away but that is probably true with many things due to the internet economy. I agree with EuropaTC, I'd think it's easier to get specialty parts now than it was 40 or 30 years ago. I hope/think that when Bean, RD, Banks... retire it will be an opportunity for someone else to step in. Who knows what the future will bring but heck look what happened with radiators on eBay.

I've used the knowledge Base more than any other resource when working on my car!
Mark
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Offline jbcollier

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #7 on: Thursday,July 13, 2017, 09:42:36 PM »
I have been working on and restoring European sports cars for 35 years.  In the beginning they are daily drivers.  Lots of service and accident repair work and there are lots of people doing the work.  Everyone is smiling and making a good living.  Values versus cost of repair means that a lot of cars are scrapped or parted out at this stage.  Next, the cars are summer only drivers.  Service work becomes seasonal and very slow in the winter.  Fewer places are willing to devote resources to tooling and knowledge.  Only a few cars are "restored" when they get run down.  Most are either scrapped or parted out.  Numbers remaining dwindle further with quite a few in storage waiting for a restoration that will never be done by the current owner.  Shops still do the work but profits are down as daily service work dries up.  Twenty years on, people go searching for the cars of their youth, ones they had, or wished they had.  Restoration work is now common.  Service work dwindles further but major overhauls take up some of the slack.  Now comes the day of reckoning.  Most of the cars are restored and most are garage queens.  A couple of 100 kilometres a year is not unusual.  Only a handful of specialists remain.  They struggle because you actually don't make much money restoring cars as the price you can charge is constrained by the value of the vehicles and the pocket book depth of the clientele.

Offline RoddyMac

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #8 on: Friday,July 14, 2017, 08:40:53 AM »
Quote
I don't think all of us qualify for geezerhood

I concur, I'm still in my 30's.  Unfortunately, I only know of two or three guys around my age that are into older Lotus cars (or any other "classic" British sports cars).


Offline Rosco5000

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Re: Future suppliers and the future of suppliers
« Reply #9 on: Friday,July 14, 2017, 02:28:24 PM »
Roddy apparently we are not all that different, I am in my mid 30s as well, and love the British cars.  The numbers in our age group aren't huge but there are some out there.  The thing I see is that more of my friends like the muscle cars being north American based.  Also some of my good friends that are into the old British cars have made some money and are now into expensive new British cars.  So we lose enthusiasts to the new cars if the pocket book allows.
Me personally I like the hybrid of new and old.  I am currently working on a mini Vtec car and then will move onto my Duratec Europa once that is done and be going down more o the lines Roddy has.  Reverse engineer what is good and improve on what needs to be improved.  Someone needs to start hording cars...  That way you can start with used spares and build up your new parts supplier network.  That is an expensive proposition where Roddy and I live,  Land costs way too much here.
1969 Europa S2 - 54/1869 I still can't believe I own one.
1978 Austin Mini - 1275, big brakes
1991 Ford Explorer - Lifted on 33s, custom lift and radius arms
2005 Chrysler 300C - chipped, lowered 22s
2003 GMC Yukon - chipped, lowered
You could say the stable is diverse