Japanese firm buys Caterham and pledges to keep the Seven alive

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British boutique carmaker Caterham moved a lot closer to Japan, one of its biggest markets. VT Holdings, its Japanese importer since 2009, purchased the brand and immediately pledged to honor its heritage.

Neither party disclosed details about the sale, like how much VT Holdings paid or why Caterham was looking for a new owner. It sounds like one of the last purveyors of the “light is right” philosophy is in good hands, however. VT Holdings CEO Kazuho Takahashi has competed in top-level racing in Japan for about two decades, and he’s aware of Caterham’s storied past. It doesn’t sound like he’s going to put the company’s name on a 5,000-pound SUV.

“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,” he said.

While he stopped short of providing more specific details, the hurdles he alluded to are almost certainly related to the regulations forcing car brands to go electric. As it stands, every current member of the Caterham range will be illegal in the United Kingdom in 2030, when the nation bans the sale of new gasoline-powered cars. Reading between the lines all but confirms that an electric evolution of the Seven is on the horizon. While making a battery-powered limousine is relatively easy, electrifying a Seven is difficult due to weight and packaging constraints.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how VT Holdings expands Caterham’s footprint. It might leverage its distribution network to take the company into new markets, or it could add more models to the portfolio.

Caterham sells over 120 units of the Seven in Japan annually. While this might not sound impressive compared to the six-digit figures posted by mainstream cars in the United States, it’s a significant number for a company whose annual sales often fall in the hundreds. An attempt to develop a more mainstream-oriented model with Renault’s Alpine division fell through, so Caterham exclusively sells variants of the Seven that range from nimble to hardcore.


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Saurabh Shukla

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