09.09.2016

Premium marques require amazing attention to detail

There are countless different interpretations of the word ‘quality’ in motor car design. Whether it is the power of the engine, handling ability on the tightest of corners or the sheer artistry of the aerodynamic body shape, the consensus is that the finer points of design are what distinguish one marque from another; one model from another in the same manufacturer’s stable.

In-car entertainment is certainly an important component of the design ‘package’, with speakers mounted at strategic points to provide what is hopefully an inconspicuous array of wrap-around sound. The grilles which protect the speakers may be inert and passive components of that system but precision in their design and manufacture help ensure that they go unnoticed rather than becoming a rattling eyesore which motor car reviewers pick upon as exemplifying poor design or taste.

But gone are the days when speakers were mounted in flat surfaces with a grille to match. Achieving the right acoustics often means that they are fitted into the three-dimensional curved surfaces around the interior of the car. Designing the machinery which forms the metal grilles with 3D profiles to match those curves is an art form as much as it is a technology.

Vehicle components sub-contracted to specialists

In line with most aspects of vehicle manufacturing, much of the work on entertainment systems is sub-contracted to specialists. A UK company with two decades’ experience in this particular area of vehicle interiors, designs and sources the tools which the manufacturers purchase to make the grilles they require. The prestige of contributing to the design of a new motor car isbe welcome but financing such a contract requires as much attention to detail as the product itself.

The terms under which the vehicle manufacturers work with specialist suppliers like the business supplying the machinery which presses the loudspeaker grille have been forged through experience.

The car builders make one down-payment to set the wheels in motion but will not make further payments until the equipment has been supplied and has been proven by having pressed out a specified number of items. This is intended to ensure that the automobile manufacturer does not pay the full price for equipment which appears to work to specification, but turns out shoddy pieces in a production environment.

Without access to adequate cash flow, a contractor supplying equipment on that basis could not afford to become involved in that supply chain, and the UK auto sector would lose access to the skillsets of the SME community.

The specialist grille designer was keen to take on contracts for a wider range of marques and models but would have been unable to fund the additional working capital involved. Neither conventional bank lending nor invoice discounting were appropriate or available in this set of circumstances, so there was a requirement for more specialised types of finance.

TAEFL stepped in to fund the manufacturing process

An introduction to the Trade & Export Finance organisation set the company on the right track, Having undertaken a detailed risk assessment of the underlying proposition, UK EXIM Finance – one of the specialist finance providers within TAEFL – offered to fund the manufacture of the grille-forming machine and supply this to the car manufacturers. This involved the finance company paying the sub-contractors responsible for building key components of the grille press.

UK EXIM Finance’s security lies in part in retaining ownership of the system until it has been fully paid for. But there is the more fundamental security of being able to credit-insure the purchasers; all of them high profile companies with good credit ratings.

The finance company’s involvement – approaching £200,000 in the first instance – has ensured that the specialist manufacturer can take up similar orders which use its skills and technology profitably.

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