Brain Food: Peter Wheeler - TVR - Former owner of and consultant to the british carmaker


I suppose that on the technical side, my best decision was starting 10 years ago to make our own engines. We did it purely for the fun of it; it wasn't a commercial decision. Everyone said: 'It can't be done - you need to spend billions of pounds.' It did give us quite a few problems for some time, so, in some ways, they were right.

It's very complex for a small company to design and make its own engine, and, as far as I'm aware, no-one else has done it. The design process didn't take very long, but making it work properly took three or four years. We had to design our own engine management system.

Since then, legislation on emissions has got tighter and it would now be very difficult for a company like TVR to instal any engines in the car because the management system and the engine have become so integrated.

So, by good luck, we have our own system and we know what to do and can comply with the latest nonsense about legislation for emissions. We would really be struggling without that.


I make my worst decision about five times a day - I've made hundreds of them. But there was one decision made eight years ago that stayed with us.

We launched a car called the Cerbera, showing it at two consecutive motor shows, and we got quite a lot of orders for it. It was a complicated car to make: the first with our own engine, and the trimming was very labour-intensive to fit.

I decided to man the company up to deal with a rate of 10 orders a week, just to make sure that customers wouldn't have to wait longer than 18 months. Because every job is hands-on, it takes quite a lot of time to train workers, so it was 100 people - a big expansion of the workforce at that point. But the orders never came in at that rate.

After 18 months, more than half of those workers were surplus, and we didn't get rid of them effectively because of the economics of the company.

Wheeler sold the company in July to the 23-year-old Russian entrepreneur Nikolay Smolensky.

Sign in to continue

Sign in

Trouble signing in?

Reset password: Click here


Call: 020 8267 8121



  • Up to 3 free articles every 90 days
  • Free email bulletins

Register Now

Take a free trial

Get 30 days unrestricted access to:

  • All the latest news, trends, and developments.
  • Exclusive interviews with CEOs and thought-leaders
  • MT Classroom - giving you an academic grounding without expensive courses
  • Management Matters and other in-depth content.
  • Daily bulletins straight to your inbox

Take a free trial today