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British Icon Caterham Cars Acquired By Japanese Automotive Group

With a storied history boasting origins that date back over 60 years, British iconic sports car manufacturer Caterham Cars has been acquired by Japanese automotive group VT Holdings, importer into Japan of the Caterham Seven since 2009.

The change in ownership replaces Malaysia-based AirAsia Group’s CEO Tony Fernandes and its executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun, and was effective from March 31.

In addition to being official importers of Caterham cars into Japan where it sells some 120 units a year, 5,000-employee strong VT Holdings also brings in other British marques including Lotus, Royal Enfields and Morgan. As one of the largest retail groups in the country with over 200 dealerships nationwide, the firm also sells Nissan, Honda, BMW and VW models and has additional investments in Spain, U.K. and South Africa. 

To appease a global fan base that may worry about the brand’s image and future of the legendary sports car maker, VT Holdings CEO Kazuho Takahashi reinforced its pledge to honor the brand’s legacy and protect Caterham’s future.

“VT Holdings is proud to welcome Caterham to the group. We have not only purchased a globally renowned performance car manufacturer but become custodians of a motoring legend. We will protect and develop the Seven to meet the legislative challenges that lie ahead,” stressed Takahashi.

“The brand now joins a group led by Takahashi, who shares the same passions as many Caterham fans, having raced competitively himself in the Japan Grand Touring Championships, Super GT and Super Endurance championships for the past 20 years,” Caterham said. 

Graham Macdonald, CEO of Caterham, also weighed in with an injection of support for VT Holdings. “Takahashi and his team truly understand the DNA of the Caterham brand, our heritage, our customers and our passions. As a team, we’re all excited about starting to write the next chapter for this very special brand.”

And what lies ahead for VT Holdings? While the Japan-based firm will now manage the day to day running of the business as Caterham cars are designed and built in the U.K., we can expect to see electric versions joining the lineup by 2030. When asked about their EV aspirations, one source close to the company suggested that they wanted to create an electric Caterham that is viable, offers a great drive and sufficient range to satisfy the market. But given the lightweight construction of these cars, the firm would only offer an EV version when battery weight and costs come down and battery range grows. But don’t expect those conditions to be met for at least another six to seven years, if current battery development in any indication.

As for Caterham cars in the U.S., there are ways to drive these British icons Stateside. Although ready-built Caterhams are not sold in the U.S., enthusiasts can still buy kit cars, supplied without an engine, and build the cars themselves. Luckily, Sevens are compatible with Ford power plants and will comfortably take a Ford Duratec 2.0-liter or a Sigma 1.6-liter.

So how competitive are Caterhams? In a hot lap time challenge with a 550-hp Nissan GT-R in 2012, a 250-hp Caterham Seven R500 beat the Nissan by 0.3 second around the 1.5-mile long Sodegaura Forest Raceway near Tokyo, proving that its power-to-weight ratio and handling characteristics are top notch. Takahashi stresses that this kind of passion and dedication to detail will be maintained.

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