New £30m supercars mecca for Hertfordshire
- Credit: charliemagee.com
Synonymous with aeronautical speed and power, Hatfield has swapped wings for wheels with a £30m supercar mecca opening this year, writes Robin Evans
On the former de Havilland Aerodrome in Hatfield, once home to pioneering world-class aircraft development, you’re greeted by something unexpected. Between today's recreational, residential and logistical buildings are multiple showrooms offering lines of gleaming supercars. And it is about to get even more impressive as three of these showrooms are combined in a £30m statement site opening this autumn.
‘Across the HR Owen Group we sell, service and maintain some of the most extraordinary supercars in the world,’ says CEO Ken Choo. 'This 'is a real opportunity for us to showcase the breadth of the brands we represent and give them the space they deserve.’
Begun in 2020, Hatfield’s current Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati franchises will be integrated in a landscaped, multi-level complex on Mosquito Way. These brands have always been synonymous with supercar centres like Byfleet, Cheltenham or Pangbourne and now Hatfield is set to join them.
‘Surrounded by beautiful green areas, with easy access to the M25 and a train station nearby, the location of our multi-marque facility really couldn’t be better,’ says Ken. ‘It’s near our existing customers in London but it also opens up a whole new set of enthusiasts for us and creates a real destination for those that might wish to visit from much further afield.’
Last year HR Owen sold around 1,100 new and 1,500 used cars, with Ken revealing that few buyers test-drive new models because they already know how good they are. With construction of the new site forging ahead, did the pandemic affect the business?
‘The supercar market has been surprisingly resilient,' Ken says. 'The first months of the pandemic were a very difficult time for everyone, but as confidence returned people began to indulge their passions again. In the last year or so, the semiconductor crisis has caused issues with the supply of new cars and a boom in used supercar sales as a result.’
Local architects Louis de Soissons - named after their founder, who helped realise Ebenezer Howard’s vision for Welwyn Garden City in 1920 - designed the complex. It has a striking winged roof, suggestive of the aeronautical history of the site. The eastern wing will house four showrooms and two workshops, with office space around a shared courtyard. Opposite will be a fifth showroom over two levels, with more workshops and vehicle storage. Departments including service and repair and HR, both currently elsewhere, will be brought on site.
‘The Starship Enterprise, as we’ve started calling it, allows us to provide an all-new experience not just for our customers but for automotive enthusiasts throughout the country,’ Ken enthuses. ‘We’re planning a whole calendar of live events, open to all. Our showroom doors are always open to car fanatics, young and old and we’d happily welcome guests to join us for a tour of the showrooms.’
With staff expected to begin moving across to the new site in July, ahead of an October opening, there are also 50 new roles being created including sales and aftersales, marketing, IT, driving, administration and accounting. The prerequisite for employees? ‘More than anything, we’re a business built on passion for luxury and performance cars,’ Ken explains.
Alongside the new site, this year has another significance for HR Owen, as the company marks its 90th anniversary. Founded by First World War airman Harold Rolfe Owen in 1932 he initially collaborated with racing driver and Bentley and Rolls-Royce dealer Jack Barclay before opening his first dealership in Mayfair.
Many supercar marques trace their origins to advancing European engine technology around the First World War. Bentley was founded in 1919 in north London, and today is predominantly built in Crewe. Ferrari’s prancing horse emblem was inspired by Italian flying ace Francesco Baracca, who painted his family’s crest on his aircraft, suggesting it to Ferrari in 1923.
Acknowledging this heritage, and with a further two showrooms to be announced, there may be some surprises. Modern engineering means the electric-hybrid Ferrari SF90 Stradale and Lamborghini Sián are already being delivered. Ken also cites the company’s partnership with innovative Croatian newcomers Rimac, whose 1900bhp all-electric Nevera has just arrived in the UK. A contender for fastest production supercar in the world, it hits 60mph in less than two seconds. Only 150 will be made.
So, is Hatfield’s new ‘Starship Enterprise’ boldly going where no-one has gone before? ‘The marketplace never stops evolving,' Ken states, 'and we need to ensure we’re consistently matching our manufacturer partners when it comes to innovation.’