Nicola spends 10 minutes with Friedhelm Wiesmann, half of the genius duo responsible for creating one of the world´s sexiest cars23-02-2010
The Wiesmann cars ooze sex appeal, not simply luxury, classic cars that tantalize the eyes, but pull up next to a Ferrari 430 Scuderia or Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 at the lights and it will give them a run for their money.
These cars are German engineering at its best and give new meaning to the concept of driving experience. One can easily see 007 sitting behind the wheel in this beauty (with me by his side of course, hey, a girl can dream)...
These are cars for aficionados who appreciate class, elegance and first rate performance. The Weismann Roadster MF5 packs a mean sounding V10 under the bonnet and reaches a top speed of 315km and needs a mere 3,8 seconds to get from 0 – 100km/h, this striking motor with its distinctive curved bonnet and characteristic spoiler, is certainly arresting, but sat behind the wheel, breathing in the quality smell of leather (all hand stitched) and hearing the purr of the V10, one is transported into driving nirvana.
Nicola spends 10 minutes with Friedhelm Wiesmann, half of the genius duo responsible for creating this modern classic that saw its humble beginnings in a cellar in Dülmen …
1. Have you always loved cars?
Yes, my parents had Italian cars when we were growing up in Germany and cars have always been a constant theme in my life although obviously now more than ever.
2. Did you always want to be a car designer; was it a dream of yours?
No, I was originally working in a company producing children´s clothing! I have three brothers and it was my oldest brother who went into the car business, he has a BMW dealership. Now I work with my other brother who is a technical engineer whilst I do more of the marketing, distribution and business side of the company.
3. Where did your inspiration come from as the cars certainly seem to resemble the curvaceous retro styling reminiscent of classic British sports cars?
The story started in 1985 when at the time I was working in the company producing children´s clothing but with the import pressure from cheaper countries, it was becoming more and more problematic for us. My brother and I had always wanted to do something with cars. We went to a motor show in Esnes and we saw small serious cars like the Morgan, Caterham and TVR. While they were nice designs they had old technology and the quality and the detail was not very good, so we thought if we designed something like this with modern techniques and of superior quality, maybe there would be a place in the market for a German company to create another car. Everyone thought that we were crazy.
We started developing the first car in the cellar of my brother, Martin´s house. It was a long journey and took a total of 8 years, in 1985 we started on a private basis, in 1998 we formed our first company and in 1993 we came into the market with our first car.
4. The Weismann Roadster MF5 is a limited edition, how many editions are actually made? Are they all limited editions?
In 2008 on our 20th anniversary we did 20 limited edition cars of every type in a special version. We only have a limited edition of the MF5 Roadster, we will never again have a 20 cylinder engine on the market as BMW will stop it at the end of this year so we are will be making 55 limited edition cars this year (2010).
5. How much would a car like that go for?
Depends on the country, however in Germany with 19% tax included the MF5 Roadster fetches 189.000€.
6. What is the top speed for the MF5?
The top speed is 315km and it reaches 100km in 3.8 seconds.
7. Which car would this go head to head with?
Porshe, Ferrrari, small Lamborghini but mostly Porshe although they do not feel that we are competitors for them, we know that we are!
8. What plans do you have to launch in the American market?
We hope to launch there in the next 3 – 4 years, however we have 3 main problems, the first is homologation (the approval process a vehicle must go through to race in a given league or series. The regulations and rules that must be met are generally set by the series' sanctioning body), the procedure to do the homologation is very very difficult for the American Market, you have to do 12 crash tests per car so you have to spend 2 – 3 million Euros per type of car purely for homologation and that for a small company like ours is a lot of money.
The second problem is the product liability, again the insurance for this is very expensive, for big companies it is normal but for small companies like ours it is prohibitive.
The third problem is the exchange rate, the big companies change their rates according to where they are in the world but a small company cannot do this, we need to keep the same price but as the exchange rate is very expensive at the moment it is causing big problems for small companies.
We need 3 – 4 years to find solutions to all of these problems and we are working on it as research indicates that America is a good market for a car like ours and we estimate doing about 350 cars a year there.
9. It looks like something James Bond should be driving! This is obviously not for your typical sports car driver but for a connoisseur of discriminating rides...
We combine classic car design from the 60s with modern technology – that is the philosophy behind the Wiesmann. Everything is produced in Germany and they are really handmade vehicles; from the leather work (which is all hand stitched), body work, montage and assembly in our factory, everything is made by hand.
They are completely bespoke and fabricated to the customer´s preference.
10. How many cars do you produce a year?
This year (2010) we will produce 280. Last year we did 200.
11. How has the recession impacted your business?
The first half of 2009 was very difficult in Germany, the second half improved enormously and figures indicate that it is now nearly back to normal. 50% of our market is in Germany followed by Switzerland, the Benelux countries and Austria.
12. I read that the gecko logo was chosen to signify that the car holds the road as well as the lizard sticks to a wall, is that true?
When we founded the company in 1988 we had to find a logo, we checked the patents worldwide and looked over various designs, bearing in mind that it should be something memorable and something that gives you an indication of what it is. This logo had no patent and the Gecko is a very dynamic creature. The car is on the road like the Gecko on the wall, also the Gecko is something very special, when you see it on the wheels even as they turn the Gecko is always a Gecko, other symbols and logos may appear upside down, but the Gecko is always the right way up in any position and the logo looks good on everything from the car to the merchandize.
13. It is a car of great beauty and performance, how long does it take to order one?
Delivery time depends on the model and season and specifications but from the day of order it is usually between 3 – 7 months. We always have different cars in our showrooms, especially in summertime as some people just don´t want to wait. We have a showroom and our main company in Dülmen near Munster and then in Dusseldorf and Frankfurt and obviously we have dealers in Germany and in other countries. We are starting to get a lot of interest in England but in England we are also having the problem with the exchange rate as they are really expensive in the UK at the moment. We also deliver to Singapore and we are starting in Australia.
14. So any plans of taking it out for a spin and showing it off while you are here?
I will be taking the car to Ascari Racetrack up in Ronda tomorrow, I have not been there yet however I hear that it is a fantastic circuit.
15. How do you find the Spanish market for the Wiesman?
The market in Spain is very difficult so we are presently discussing how to best promote the car here. We intend doing a launch in collaboration with Mario Guarnieri in April / May and to bring all of the cars here to Marbella to promote them. At the moment it is very difficult here, particularly as Spain does not seem to be recovering as quickly economically as the rest of Europe.
16. Is it your first time here in Marbella?
No, I was here before but I don´t really know this place, I come here by car, then go back to Malaga and the airport and I am normally only here for a short visit. I am already leaving on Sunday, I will have to try and spend more time next time!
17. Thanks for your time this afternoon, the technical information I can get, however before you go, tell me some little known fact that I might not find in a motor magazine about the evolution of the Wiesmann?
First of all, it was a really crazy idea; we literally started with nothing in the basement of my brother´s house. The first car was created in the cellar, then we had to test drive it and when the car was prepared we had to do something to market it but it was really difficult as we had no name, nothing, and nobody knew anything about it.
In 1993 in Germany tennis was very popular, especially with the likes of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf playing. There was a big tournament in Hamburg and as I knew that all the tennis players would be there for a week in the Atlantic Hotel, luckily I managed to get a friend of mine who was working in there to get me a room in the hotel which would have been impossible otherwise as only the tennis players and some VIPS were staying there. As I was a guest I could park the car directly in front of the hotel, I tipped one of the doormen 300 German Marks to keep my place for the whole week!
All the tennis players like Agassi, Sampras and Becker and the rest of the guys came out for their training sessions and the tournament and everybody stopped to look at the car and were intrigued by it and wanted to know what kind of car it was. I gave them information about the car and got them all to test drive it and they loved it. They were five minutes in the car and talking about it with me meanwhile everyone was taking pictures, so my first pictures and TV stories were all with top raking tennis players and the first customers came out of this.
It was very interesting, very easy and it cost no money and everyone loved it, it was great to see Sampras doing a test drive in the car, later we did the same thing in Formula 1, it was a case of true Gorilla marketing.
Thanks Friedhelm, it has been a pleasure speaking with you and I look forward to seeing you back in Marbella, next time I will be sure to take you up on your offer of a few laps round Ascari!!!
Wiesmann Manufaktur Dülmen
Wiesmann GmbH, An der Lehmkuhle 87
T: +49 (0) 2594 / 91360
Edificio Guarnieri. San Pedro de Alcántara
Ctra. de Ronda-San Pedro. 29670 Marbella
T: +34 951 775 575
Ascari Race Resort
T: +34 952 187 171
By: Nicola Vieira Rodrigues
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