In sad news for British motorsport and self-driving fans, on 9 June it emerged that Westfield Sports Cars and its subsidiary Westfield Autonomous Vehicles had both gone into administration.
Founded in 1983 and based in Kingswinford, near Birmingham, Westfield Sports Cars specialised in Lotus Seven inspired kit cars and was often compared to Caterham.
Its diversification into self-driving was widely considered an astute move and it gained many plaudits for its involvement in the landmark GATEway Project in London,
In my 2018 article Autonomous Now, which led to the launch of Cars of the Future, I noted: “GATEway is entering its final phase, which will see a fleet of driverless pods providing a shuttle service around a 3.4km route on the Greenwich Peninsula.
“In a world first, members of the public are invited to take part in the research, by riding in or engaging with the pods and sharing their opinions.”
Supported by Innovate UK, Westfield went on to run a live commercial trial at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. The future seemed bright.
Just prior to the Queen’s Speech, on 10 May, Westfield Technology Group CEO Julian Turner was one of the 17 major UK business representatives calling for the Government to announce primary legislation for automated vehicles (AVs).
A slightly bizarre last hurrah – if indeed this is the end – came a few weeks ago when the Westfield Pod featured on Grace’s Amazing Machines on BBC children’s channel CBeebies.
For the record, presenter Grace Webb preferred it to the other two contenders – an electric bus and a ride-on lawnmower.
Distressed business listing service, Business Sale, reported that: “In its accounts for the year ending December 31 2021, Westfield Sports Cars reported fixed assets of close to £750,000 and current assets of slightly over £4 million. Less liabilities, the company’s net assets amounted to £1.179 million.
“Westfield Autonomous Vehicles, meanwhile, reported total assets of £1.4 million in its most recent accounts, but ended 2021 with net liabilities of close to £316,000.
“Despite the company’s demise, the assets set to be sold could represent a major opportunity for the right buyer, given their strong offering in the emerging self-driving electric vehicles sector and the niche kit car market.”
Autocar added: “Westfield had built up a solid reputation for creating interesting sports cars majoring on handling and horsepower rather than refinement.
“CEO Julian Turner also planned to push the autonomous pod side of the business, with the aim of turning Westfield into “the Boeing or Airbus of the automotive world”, selling these vehicles to fleet operators.
“Westfield Autonomous Vehicles created the Heathrow Pods that connect the Terminal 5 business parking to the main building and claims to have delivered “more fully autonomous vehicles than anyone else in the UK”.”
Mark Bowen of MB Insolvency was appointed as administrator on 9 June, but parent companies Westfield Technology Group and Potenza Enterprises don’t appear to be included.
Mark Bowen told the local media there had already been an “encouraging level of interest shown in the company’s remaining assets” and that MB Insolvency were “liaising with a number of parties at the moment to see if anybody is interested in the assets and possibly trying to resurrect something here.”
On 14 June, the counter on the Westfield Autonomous Vehicles website clocked a not insubstantial “9,983,709 Autonomous Kilometres” and “6,015,384 Passengers Driven”, and still rising.
Surely that should be of interest to someone.