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TVR looks set to export car production to Italy

Bertone, the Italian car design and production specialist, is expected to begin making TVRs in 2007 with an improved range.

Nikolai Smolenski, the Russian owner of TVR, caused shockwaves when he announced his cars were to be built in mainland Europe.

He had previously said assembly would remain in Blackpool, TVR’s home town, but at a new plant. Then there was speculation Smolenski would move production to South Wales.

Garel Rhys, automotive professor at Cardiff University business school, believes TVR production at Bertone is highly likely. “Bertone has spare capacity and TVR has an agreement with Ricardo to make its engines compatible with Euro IV emissions regulations, and perhaps to supply them,” he says.

A Bertone spokesman in Turin tried to dampen the speculation “We have signed no agreement with TVR – this is all rumour,” he said.

Rhys claims it is a miracle TVR has survived because its origins are in kit-cars, but the brand now needs to make a fresh start if it is to be viable in the long-term.

He does not think TVR would lose anything by moving assembly out of the UK, “though that would be sad”, – and it could be beneficial.

“Italy has strong associations with high-quality sportscars through Ferrari and Maserati, and also Lamborghini, which many people still perceive as Italian,” he says.

Rhys believes TVR’s future depends on the quality of models, not where they are made. “TVR would do well not to develop too many models because, with a small company, this confuses buyers and can reduce sales.”

In the late Nineties, TVR made 1,600 cars in one year, but it is thought to have produced as few as 70 cars this year; however, Smolenski has set a 500 unit per year target for the carmaker.

Last month TVR said it was making 250 people redundant prior to moving production.

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