Overstaying His Welcome - The Nedala Story
Time for another story from the Erin history books, this time looking at a problematic car that would bring the company to its knees. Read the whole thing or look at the pretty pictures, I don't mind, though any feedback/thoughts on the cars would be most appreciated
1972 Erin Nedala (Mk 1)
One of the defining characteristic's of Erin's 70s period was their slightly exuberant approach to making cars. They didn't have a formalised set of vehicles designed to compete in specific markets against certain competitors; rather, they just made cars as they liked.
A great example of this was the Nedala. Having begun life as a GT coupe, it morphed into a kind of luxury GT-saloon, a car between defined types. Marco Erin had requested a high-end luxury vehicle "of some sorts", and this was how his designers had responded. Launched in 1972, the Nedala was pretty unique in its area of the market - bigger and slower than actual GT rivals, but also sportier and more precise than rival luxury saloons. It bridged the gap between these two markets.
Available in just one trim, the GTL, and powered by a choice of an i6 or the same 3.6l V8 from the Tegale, it offered just about everything one could desire from a luxury car. Despite the plush interior and excellent comfort, it was hardly a slouch - 0-60 in 8.2 seconds was competitive for such a car, although the soft suspension did compromise on the handling.
Aside from that, however, there wasn't much else to this car. Erin didn't seem to have a purpose for it (it wasn't even particularly innovative), taking the form of a car they'd just made for the hell of it. That wasn't to suggest that it didn't have love and passion put into it - it was built in an entirely new factory for one thing. Sales however, were mixed, particularly in the climate of the Seventies oil crises. Exports to America were a major part of this cars sales, as US buyers looked for a luxury car that didn't do 8 mpg.
The car sort of just loomed in the background until 1977, when a replacement for it started to be discussed. At this point, however, everything would go berserk, and this once unassuming part of the Erin range would become the most significant for all the wrong reasons.
1977 was the last great year for Erin before their massive economic failure, and many have attributed it to the Mk 2 Nedala. A conflict arose at the Q3 meeting of that year that put CEO Marco Erin into a tricky position - a clash between his chief design team and his board of directors. This was made worse by the fact that tensions between these two groups had been frosty due to their different interests.
The board wanted a replacement for the Nedala, and wanted it to be turned into a luxury limousine much like the Jaguar XJ. His chief designers, however, disagreed; Howard Forgely, the man who had styled most of Erin's cars for the past 17 years, suggested a proper GT car would be a much better move, given that the Nedala had never been a big seller and the limousine market didn't feel appropriate for Erin, and this was backed by Marco's main advisor Arnold Clark
The arguments got heated; should Marco trust the people who had stood by him and his father ever since they were first employed, or his board of directors, who had experience in the financial world and had slowly been corporatising the company since they'd arrived?
He chose the latter, and the replacement for the Nedala was turned into a luxury saloon.
1978 Erin Nedala (Mk 2)
If this car were a song, it'd be Station to Station by David Bowie.
When the Mk 2 Nedala launched in September 1978, it was heralded as a major achievement for the company. Highly advanced luxury technologies, stunning abstract design and an incredibly fast top-end trim. Amazingy too was how the Board of Directors had managed to develop the entire car without almost a single word of influence from the Designers; Marco had entrusted them to pull this car off.
Inside, they had packed the car with such features as electric seats, air con, rear window curtains, a champagne cooler, in-car telephone, optional custom interior design, specialist lighting and the most expensive audio system ever fitted into a car, courtesy of Marantz. The comfort was even better, as coupled to all of these features was a brilliant suspension setup that could absorb bumps with exceptional ease.
The styling also set a new standard for Erin. Forgeley had reluctanctly styled the car after a lot of arguing with Marco, and had turned this massive 5.5m long aircraft carrier of a car into an understated beauty. It would be the only Erin to feature such abstract design.
Far more impressive though was the performance. Two trims were available, one an 'entry level' one powered by an enlarged version of the V8 in the previous one, increased to 4.0l and now featured mechanical fuel injection. The top end trim, called the GT-12, was the real star of the show; it had a 5.0l V12 under the bonnet that produced 404 hp, allowing this thing to accelerate to 60 in just 6.5 seconds and top out at 150 mph. In it's short span of existence, then, it spent much of that time being one of the fastest 4 door cars in the world.
But Erin had been incredibly arrogant. Or rather the Board of Directors, who'd forced the Mk 2's birth, had been arrogant. They had no idea what this market was looking for, and the simple fact was that most customers in this region couldn't care less how feature packed the Nedala was when the entry level trim of this car cost almost as much as a top-of-the-range Jaguar XJ. Spend a little more, and you could have had the prestigious XJ12, which was very nearly as fast.
That wasn't the worst bit with of the price however; that issue was to be found in the GT-12 trim, which cost the equivalent of £180,000. There wasn't a market in the world where people were going to spend that much money on a car like this.
Unsurprisingly, this car flopped. The first few months of sales were good, but come 1979, and everything fell apart. Erin ended up with around 160 GT-12s sitting around their warehouses with no one wanting to buy them before production of that trim was stopped in January. By this point, the conflict between the Board and the Designers was making the news, seriously damaging Erin's image as Marco appeared to do nothing. It's no surprise then that, when Erin slashed the price of the GT-12 to just 60% of the original asking price, meaning they would make a loss on every one they sold, journalists started criticizing the company heavily.
Even then, they barely shifted. Worse still, the Mk 2 Comprida, launched the year before, was now flopping due to the car not even looking like other Erin's and not really being a fully finished car. The Q1 earnings reports were dire, showing massive lack of sales across the board, and nothing that Marco tried could seem to resolve this. Further cuts to the Nedala's price tag only led to the company gaining a bad reputation.
He was forced to make some very serious decisions in August of that year, and chose to cut production of the Nedala and Comprida. They would be followed later in the year by the Tegale and Civera. Harold Forgely and Arnold Clark resigned along with the whole of the chief design team in September of that year, leaving Marco with no other allies nor advisers in his company. In his anger, Marco also dissolved the Board of Directors, who were fired for making such a massive cock-up with this car. It made losses in the region of £150 million, which was simply too much to bare for the mid-sized car maker to bear.
Yet, the Mk 2's story was more of a tragedy than anything else. The car itself was sublime, and many of its features have become luxury vehicle standards in the years since. It was also phenomenal to drive, and remains just about the most comfortable car Erin has ever made.
But it also came to represent everything that was wrong with Erin in the late 70s. The Board of Directors, who'd wanted to turn Erin into a more common European brand with rivals to German makers had taken the heart away from the company, who'd built themselves on their experimentation, simply choosing to make a car because they wanted to.
The Mk 1 Nedala was the embodiment of this spirit - it only ever sold because of its unusualness, not because it was a good car. The Mk 2, however advanced, showed that if Erin wanted to be corporate, it had to be in their heart and not just in their actions.
893 Nedala's sold in the end, of which just 172 were GT-12's.
You can continue the story here.