Ricardo Engineering is planning to start low volume vehicle assembly operations at its Shoreham base from this autumn, following a major investment that will double the size of its Special Vehicles unit.
Engineers are now being recruited to lead the development of the new production facility, which is to be housed in a 2,300m2 building leased from Shoreham airfield. Details of what vehicles Ricardo plans to build on the new site remain a closely guarded secret. But sources at Ricardo confirm that the expansion will give it the capacity to build several hundred vehicles a year.
This is at least double the current output of Ricardo’s Special Vehicles division, which produces a mix of vehicle conversions for the Ministry of Defence and prototypes and test mules for the car industry.
The move is a further step by Ricardo to expand the range of services it can offer in the face of a growing trend by car makers to farm out niche engineering work to consultancies.
In 1994 Ricardo acquired transmissions and chassis engineering specialist FF Developments to form FFD Ricardo, thus adding to its engine development specialism.
The move will intensify the competition within Britain’s independent consultancies, which are fighting to be able to offer as wide a range of services as possible to car makers.
Lotus Engineering, now owned by the Malaysian company which builds Proton cars, is set to open a new body-in-white design facility at its site in Hethel, Norfolk, to add to its core engineering resources in power train development and chassis engineering.
Earlier this year, the automotive engineering consultancy Tickford Engineering, which is based in Milton Keynes, extended its range of services by forming a joint venture with Engelhard, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of catalytic converters.