Track-Ready Road-Legal Super Car Made in MexicoMon, 09/01/2014 - 12:27
The “Made in Mexico” label in the automotive industry is not naturally associated with high technology, high quality, or innovative design. This meant Iker and Guillermo Echeverría faced a number of obstacles when they first started working on their dream to make a race car. With a motor-sport heritage coming from their father’s 40 years of experience, Iker and Guillermo also brought a strong background in engineering and industrial design to the table. VUHL’s first steps were made in 2008, just as the global financial crisis dealt a body blow to the automotive sector. These adverse circumstances might have sunk many fledgling projects, but the brothers saw this as the right time to start their project as the industry was open to considering new proposals based on different business plans.
Iker explains that early on in the project, he and Guillermo sought to define the niche they were seeking to enter. “We were targeting die-hards that recognize the little race details in a car and in its aggressive look.” For Iker, the starting point of the design came from Guillermo’s experiences in Mastretta. “An early design decision was to strip down the weight and equate the driving experience to that of a motorcycle.” This left the VUHL 05 model with no windscreen and no roof, which also helped the brothers save time, money, and effort. “VUHL offers a unique, pure experience where man and machine really come together thanks to the high wind-to-weight ratio,” adds Guillermo. During the design stage, VUHL reached out to several companies for help, but did not find the support it was looking for until it contacted Esiste. Highly respected as a provider of automotive concept modelling, Esiste’s client list is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of auto manufacturing, including Lamborghini, Ducati, Volkswagen, Audi, Alfa Romero, Fiat, and Maserati. The collaboration with Esiste provided the exterior design for the VUHL 05, which was essential to reach their target niche, but the brothers state that 80% of the investment going into the project went toward the engineering. For the engineering, VUHL turned to well- known consultants such as Multimatic and Magna Cosma. “These companies helped design a car that would be attractive, not only because of its looks, but because of its characteristics on the track and on normal roads,” explains Guillermo. To ensure this, the VUHL 05 has been tested on tracks in Europe and Mexico as well as on Mexican highways. Iker himself has driven the car from Mexico City to Acapulco and Valle de Bravo along winding roads, and assures that the car can be used on Mexican roads. The development of its suspension took place between the UK and Mexico so as to be tuned for all manner of surfaces.
A critical success factor is gaining the trust of respected names in the industry. “The networking cost us a lot of time, both because we were looking internationally and because we were selling a plan, not a dream,” explains Guillermo. The Echeverría brothers chose their partners based on the quality, skills, and expertise, but also the size of the company. They found an early supporter in TechBA, a program started by FUMEC to help Mexican enterprises rapidly expand their international horizons. This business accelerator led Iker and Guillermo to Detroit where they were able to run through their project with industry experts. With the VUHL 05 now being for sale, the Mexican government is interested in further promoting the project. “They recognize that this is relatively new for Mexico. The project has the possibility of changing the country’s automotive image as well as attracting more investment in this industry and beyond,” declares Iker. The car was unveiled by President Enrique Peña Nieto at the Ministry of Economy’s Entrepreneur Week in 2013. Throughout the first three years of the project, heavyweights such as Michelin, Ford, and Hella all came forward to express an interest in working with VUHL, and these companies remain part of VUHL’s partnership network today. The design of this Mexican race car has caught the attention of the world media, leading the Echeverría brothers to focus on the marketing of their brand. They have appeared on the BBC’s Top Gear and the History Channel’s Ultimate Wheels, while hoping for famous figures such as Carlos Slim, Sergio Pérez, and perhaps even Jay Leno to own the VUHL 05. Sony has also contacted the company to include the car in an upcoming Playstation 4 videogame.
VUHL is producing its first batch of cars for sale in 2014 which will command a price of US$89,000. “By the end of the year, we will have produced from 20 to 30 cars, and these will be delivered during the last quarter,” explains Guillermo. The parts and components for the car are being manufactured by 95 suppliers outside Mexico and will be brought to the country to be assembled here. “Towards the end of 2014, our plant will have a showroom where people can see the cars and the production process. This will be interesting to see, especially for those who have made the initial deposit to purchase the car,” comments Iker.