JOHANNESBURG - In 1973, Caterham Cars (a dealership run by Graham Nearn that specialised in selling Lotus Cars) acquired the rights to manufacture the Lotus 7 from its creator, Colin Chapman.
Nearn built a respectable business, one that would eventually see its name on the wing of a Formula 1 car, but the business changed hands frequently as the motor car evolved and consumers tastes changed.
Arguably one of the greatest driver’s cars ever made, and living on in several iterations to this day, the Caterham Seven remains a highly niche product that caters to very specific tastes. One could argue that this market is all but obliterated, due to the rise of the SUV and the new dawn of the electric car.
Japanese consortium VT Holdings, however, believes that the humble Seven should live on well into the future, so that future generations can continue to enjoy a machine that embraces the spirit of driving (and Chapman’s vision of simple, lightweight performance). Caterham Cars has been acquired by the Japan-headquartered automotive group from its current owners, Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun.
The company assumes custodianship of the legendary British sports car brand, having been the Japanese importer for the Seven since 2009. It currently sells over 120 cars in the country annually.
As one of Japan’s largest retailer groups with over 200 showrooms nationwide and investments in the UK, Spain, Thailand and South Africa, VT Holdings is also the importer for a collection of two and four-wheeled brands including Royal Enfield and Lotus in its home market.
Motorsport and the global track-day communities have always played a central role in Caterham’s commercial success. The brand now joins a group led by chief executive Kazuho Takahashi, who shares the same passions, having raced competitively in JGTC, Super GT and Super Taikyu championships for the past 20 years.
Commenting on the acquisition, Takahashi-san said: “VT Holdings is proud to welcome Caterham to the group. We have not only purchased a globally renowned performance car manufacturer but become custodians of a motoring legend. We will protect and develop the Seven to meet the legislative challenges that lie ahead.”
Graham MacDonald, chief executive of Caterham Cars, added: “Takahashi-san and the team truly understand the DNA of the Caterham brand, our heritage, our customers and our passions. As a team, we’re all excited about starting to write the next chapter for this very special brand.”
Caterham Cars currently retail in 20 markets globally, with exports accounting for 60% of its annual new car sales volume. Its new owners invested in Peugeot Citroen South Africa (now Peugeot South Africa under Stellantis) a few years ago.
We are holding thumbs that this new life for the brand will lead to its launch in South Africa. Would you like to see the Caterham Seven launched in South Africa or do you think the time has come to let it drive off into the sunset?
We’ve reached out to VT Holdings to see if the company would consider South Africa as a viable market, so watch this space ...