The name Ariel has been synonymous with vehicle production since 1870 and is one of the oldest marques in British motoring history. Thanks to the Ariel Atom sports cars, including the latest Atom 3.5, it is also still one of the most highly-regarded. Now the newest addition to the Ariel family, the Ace, is making waves in the motorcycling world as well.
Ariel Motor Company re-launched the brand in Crewkerne in 1999 and both the Ariel Atom and the Ariel Ace have been designed from the ground up in Somerset under the guidance of Director, Simon Saunders. An automotive designer for GM, Porsche and Aston Martin, Mr Saunders has worked around the country and internationally, settling in Somerset 30 years ago.
The Ariel Atom has been described by Jeremy Clarkson as 'motoring nirvana' and 'the most amazing car of the century'. It claims several performance titles, including being Top Gear’s Power Lap record holder for almost two years, and can accelerate to 60mph in just 2.5 seconds!
Meanwhile the Ariel Ace, which was launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June 2014, is already attracting attention and orders from across the globe. Tailor-made to the individual’s exact requirements and taste, customers can choose between different tanks, seats, handlebars, wheels, footrests and more, ensuring that each bike is as individual as its owner. The Ace goes into production at the beginning of 2015 and will be made alongside the Atom in Somerset.
Ariel Motor Company’s impressive growth has resulted in it moving into purpose-built, flagship facilities near Crewkerne. Mr Saunders says, “We make a product that is unaffected by geographic location, so we are in Somerset because we choose to be. I think it’s a great choice. The local council provided us with very positive help in the redevelopment of our current site and we feel that there is a much more personal and relaxed relationship between us than there would be if we were in an urban or city environment.”
Ariel has always been able to find the skilled and dependable workers it needs. Mr Saunders explains, “We have slowly grown over the years and have never had a problem in finding skilled labour, even though we are incredibly picky about whom we employ. Working for Ariel is more than a job, it’s part of a growing family and, with negligible turnover in staff, many of the guys have been here since day one.”
To date, over 1,000 Atoms have been constructed in Somerset with a production target set at around 100 vehicles per year. Some 40% of Atoms have been exported to Europe, USA, Singapore, South Africa, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and others – and demand is still growing. Initial reaction to the Ariel Ace suggests a similar demand is likely for the motorcycle, with orders already placed from as far afield as Vietnam and Australia.
Saunders says, “People are sometimes a bit surprised to find a company like ours in Somerset but then I point out that helicopters are made just up the road in Yeovil and there are plenty of other hi-tech businesses in Somerset too. It’s a working county, in every sense of the word, and one that simply gets on and does things. It’s also a lifestyle choice as I live as well as work in a beautiful part of England, with great communications, schools and people, so for me Somerset embodies the best of all worlds.”
Currently working on other Ariel cars to sit alongside the Atom, the Ariel Motor Company continues to go from strength to strength. It has recently won grant funding from Innovate UK to help with future research and development plans, ensuring the company retains ‘pole position’ at the cutting edge of the automobile industry.