Based in the town of Banbury in Oxfordshire, U.K., Prodrive Advanced Technology is the part of the Prodrive Group (founded by David Richards CBE) that focuses on the design, development and build of vehicles and vehicle systems for high end and niche segments of the transportation industry. 

Interview with Iain Roche, CEO of Prodrive Advanced Technology.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Iain Roche: The majority of our activity is in the automotive sector, usually with low volume high end clients like Aston Martin. We work across the NPI (New Product Introduction) spectrum, supporting the development of innovative products through design, development and ultimately, production.

We have an engineering team that can start from a clean sheet and develop a product right through qualification and onto launch readiness. They will dovetail with our manufacturing team who will handle the productionisation phases from job #1 through to end of life. They will be supported by our in-house machine shop and fabrication facilities, meaning products are developed seamlessly without the lag of an extended supply chain. 

Where we start and end in the process is very much up to the client’s needs. 

We may build a handful of ‘proof of concept’ vehicles, as we did on the Ford Transit Hybrid project, or a few thousand production vehicles as we did for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) with the Range Rover Autograph Special Edition (see photo). The point is that we provide a seamless, scalable, and flexible enhancement to the client’s own capabilities to help them gain an extended market reach.

E.E: What’s the news about new products/services?

I.R: Prodrive also invests in its own ideas and products. You may be aware of our Prodrive ‘Hummingbird’ – the world’s lightest folding bicycle, or our Racing Simulator – our luxury takes on esports. To add to this growing product portfolio, Prodrive Advanced Technology will shortly be announcing a partnership that is delivering a novel last-mile vehicle concept. I can’t say much more on this now, but for those who only know of Prodrive from our motorsport heritage it may be a big surprise. 

E.E: What are the ranges of products/services?

I.R: Threaded through our offering of design, development and production of client projects are our three main areas of specialization: Intelligent Interiors, Active Aero and Special Vehicle builds.

We have a track record of working with high end vehicle manufacturers and further enhancing their ranges with luxury interior packages. Often the challenge will be limited package spaces requiring creative kinematic solutions combined with the need for a quality interior finish that matches that of the OEM. For instance, the front seat table module that we produced for Volvo (see photo) was shipped directly into the Gent plant to seamlessly fit the production flow of the vehicle assembly line.

Our active aero work can be traced back to the McLaren P1 System (see photo). We had to design a rear wing that could react in a split second, and yet package within the limited envelope dictated by the vehicle’s styling. The system required advanced kinematic motion driven by electrohydraulic actuation using a Prodrive derived algorithm. We delivered the first product within 18 months and still support the vehicle today. Our actuation capabilities have since been in demand for other super car OEMs and even the BAR America’s Cup yacht for Sir Ben Ainslie (GB).

Our Special Vehicle work extends from one-off proof of concept builds, through to limited edition builds of around a thousand vehicles per year. This may involve modifying the clients core vehicle design to develop a new variant, or special addition such as a soft-top or an EV option or something with improved performance. We can manage the qualification and homologation of the design as well, meaning that the client can concentrate on core business whilst Prodrive bring their product to market.  Our build experience extends from last mile delivery bikes through to EV trucks and everything in between. 

E.E: What is the state of the market where you are currently active? 

I.R: This is a really exciting time in the automotive industry. New starters are disrupting the status quo and really challenging the established players. Manufacturers are trying to navigate through the uncertainties of future green legislation, maintain core ICE capabilities, develop EV and investigate hydrogen options. 

There are plenty of opportunities for a company like Prodrive in this environment. The old rules are being broken and our clients need a partner who can help them design and develop their innovations and ultimately bring them to market to the standard that they expect from Prodrive.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

I.R: Companies are seeking to differentiate themselves through performance and quality whilst their customers seek personalization and eschew personal ownership. The end result is that small and nimble start-ups are co-existing with larger and more mature OEMs. For Prodrive, this means responding to rapidly changing conditions – something we are ideally sized for.

The trend for sustainability without compromising quality or performance is one we see continuing for the foreseeable future. Whilst EV maintains a significant part of the low carbon vehicle architecture, we are also seeing an increased pull for Hydrogen projects. We maintain a cross-functional team to handle these different pulls and engage a global network of partners who provide expertise to complement what we have in-house.

Volvo S90 Excellence Interior Concept

E.E: What are the most innovative products/services marketed?

I.R: Everything we do tends to be innovative – that’s why our clients use us. The problems we work on are those that a company’s in-house team might not have the expertise or time to solve; it could be a mechatronic package challenge on a luxury hyper car, or a drivetrain that doesn’t deliver power as required for an armored personnel carrier. Active Aero is a really interesting area where its ability to reduce drag (and therefore increase efficiency and range) is starting to be picked up my major manufacturers; it’s no longer the preserve of premium high-performance vehicles.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2024?

I.R: It’s a busy year for Prodrive Advanced Technology! As I mentioned, we are preparing for a new vehicle launch in the autumn, we are working with some new clients in the Super and Hyper car world, and we continue to forge ahead with existing client development programs involving active aero and defense vehicles. Busy and challenging is how we like it!