Friday, 4 April 2008

Face to Face with William Riley of XPower

(Author's note: this piece was reprinted in part in CAR Magazine, 15/04/08)

"I've seen Bentley, and I've seen Aston Martin, and I know what they can do in terms of quality. We can do better."

This was the bullish message that William Riley, holder of the MG Xpower trademark and resuscitator of the MG SV project, gave out at the Pride of Longbridge rally today. The founder of MG Sport and Racing Europe limited said that he plans to expand his operation to produce between 1500-1800 cars per year, despite fierce competition from the likes of Aston Martin and Porsche.

Riley claimed that MG Xpower had already delivered seven customer cars, and that eighteen new shells had been produced by the company's subsidiary in Droitwich, West Midlands. He dismissed claims that the company was merely bolting together old MG-Rover cast-offs, stating that both the engine and bodyshell supply chains were strong. Despite this, the car at Pride of Longbridge (the same one which has been used in recent press photos) was on an 07 plate. "It's a demonstrator, and yes it is one of our own shells," retorts Riley.

It was obvious to an observer that the standard of fit and finish inside the cabin was not up to Aston Martin or Porsche standards. Exposed screwheads were visible, and various pieces of door trim were missing. "That is because this is the CS version, 150kg lighter than the standard car," claims Riley. He also claimed that by lowering the compression ratio and raising the supercharger boost, the MG Xpower SV WR CS (to give it its full name) produces nearly 600bhp, but no documentation was available to substantiate this claim.

To raise the car's almost unknown reputation, Riley plans to enter the CS into several hillclimb events, of which the first will be Shelsley Walsh in May. But the buying public will be more interested in how well the car functions on the road. If Riley is to sell even a fraction of the 1800 cars per year that he so boldly targets, he will need to convince a potential Aston Martin Vantage buyer that the SV WR is an attractive alternative. Put simply: if the standard of fit and finish is less than exemplary, the car is unlikely to sell, hence the brash claims about the competition.

Whether Riley can back up words with actions remains to be seen