"the AC COBRA ... a way of living"
by Malcolm J. Naudi (timesofmalta.com)
This week, a silver grey AC Cobra Mk V built at Hal Far is to be exported to the United Kingdom.
According to the chief engineer of AC Cars, Malta-based John Owen, the company is now in a position to start serious production. "We have seven cars in production at the moment and see this increasing substantially over the coming months," he told The Sunday Times yesterday.
Alan Lubinsky, chairman of Acedes Holdings, LLC, which owns the AC marque, said: "We are only now going to see the progress of all the work that has gone into this set-up process over the past two years."
He explained that a lot of effort had gone into establishing the production and engineering side of the business, especially certification and repeatability.
While Malta has had earlier experience in car assembly, he said this was totally different to car manufacturing: "We are pioneers. What we are doing is taking something from scratch, designing, engineering, sourcing the components that we have engineered the car for and manufactured the car from scratch."
Mr Owen, who has formerly worked with the Ford Motor Company and Lotus, said since coming to Malta in 2004 AC Cars have brought ten 40-foot trailers of parts, equipment and tooling from the UK to the factory in Hal Far.
The Malta plant is now fully equipped and incorporates a machine shop, welding and fabrication, composite, trim, paint and assembly areas. "We have employed 15 Maltese staff who have been instrumental in the factory layout and have been trained in the various disciplines and processes," Mr Owen said.
Mr Lubinsky said employment will grow by a further 10 in the coming months.
New jigs have been built and tooling to assist with the manufacturing processes and a local Maltese supplier base has been established, facilitating the procurement of many components and services.
The past 18 months have not been without problems, Mr Owen said, which led to some delays, but we have produced. A number of cars without engines were shipped to the United States and the company is now concentrating on building complete running cars for the UK, Russia and Japanese markets.
In the UK, Mr Lubinsky said, Clive Sutton Premier Marques (http://www.clivesutton.net/) have been appointed as AC's UK distributor and main dealer for London. "They only handle extremely upmarket products and are based in London, next to Lords Cricket Ground, opposite Regent Park," he said.
Armand Legends (http://www.accars.ru/) have been appointed AC's Russian distributor and dealer for Moscow. The next production AC Cobra Mk V, which retails at US$115,000 (Lm38,474), is going to Russia. "They have had a number of potential customers here in the past few days who have driven and absolutely loved the cars," Mr Lubinsky said. "We believe that they will be fantastic representatives for our cherished and revered AC brand. They also sell Cadillac and Hummer in Moscow."
Finally Autotrading Luft were appointed AC's representatives in Tokyo, Japan.
Mr Owen said: "I am proud to be here in Malta. "It is a fantastic environment to work and live in. I believe the heritage of Britain's oldest vehicle manufacturer blends well with Malta's heritage and have found the people to be very skilled, adaptable and enthusiastic in their work.
"I would like to personally thank all our staff and suppliers for their help, support, and patience during the past months and look forward to building a stronger relationship in the future as our production volumes increase."
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