By Eric Peterson | Oct 25, 2020
Roadsters and other vehicles
Vanderhall Motor Works founder and CEO Steve Hall went into manufacturing with a background in exotic car sales. "He always wanted to build his own car, and started to do it in the back garage of his dealership," says Bell. "We started with some prototypes. You've got to make some mistakes before you find the perfect thing."
Vanderhall's "perfect" vehicle has evolved, but its essence remains the same: a three-wheeled roadster built for performance, with looks to match. The company started with a chain-driven single-seat vehicle and a steel chassis, then pivoted to aluminum in 2011 and two-seaters in 2016, Vanderhall's first model year.
The company's first roadster was the Laguna, a carbon fiber model that sold for about $65,000. It caught the market's eye, but the demand for a lower price point drove further innovation.
Starting at $25,950, the Venice debuted in 2017, followed by the larger Carmel (featuring doors, a removable cap shade for $35,950 and up) and an all-electric vehicle, the Edison. The line is now sold through more than 70 dealers in the U.S. and Europe.
Featuring classic silhouettes, Vanderhall roadsters can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds and are notably good at cornering. "They're a lot of fun," says Bell. "People get in them who have been riding motorcycles their whole life and they're like, 'Wow, this is like riding a bike!'"
He adds, "We use the hashtag, #TheRoadIsCalling, because it's just fun to find an excuse to get out and ride these things."
For the 2022 model year, Vanderhall is releasing the Navarro, its first four-wheeled (and four-wheel-drive) vehicle. "The Navarro is all-electric. It's an off-road UTV with lots of horsepower. It's going to be a fun vehicle to take out."
Manufacturing takes place at Vanderhall's nearly 200,000-square-foot facility in Provo, with an assembly line of 30 employees. "We do everything here," says Bell. "We build the chassis. We have flat pieces of aluminum go on to these fiber lasers and we cut them out. Think of an inkjet printer going around, but with a laser cutting everything out like a CNC type of thing."
Vanderhall's patented mono-aluminum chassis is wrapped in composite material, he adds. "It gives us a lot of flexibility, with minimal tooling."
Beyond its own big roof, Vanderhall leverages vendors for painting and plastic thermoforming, and uses GM engines and other off-the-shelf automotive components. "We get stuff from everywhere," says Bell.
Sales have been "doubling every year" since 2016, says Bell. "This year has obviously been impacted by COVID, but we've got a lot of sales going on right now and production's going crazy. We hope to hit that doubling this year, just a little later than we normally would."
Challenges: "It's really supply chain," says Bell. "The supply chain was definitely impacted [by COVID-19]. We're getting out of that now, where we're pretty much able to get what we need. Before that, we had the GM strike. That was also an impact for us, and delayed some of the things coming in."
He adds, "COVID has definitely impacted us. We did not close down, though; we did not have it as bad here as other places and the government allowed us to work. . . . We've been able to run nonstop, but at a lower capacity."
Opportunities: Moving into the off-road market with the Navarro, says Bell, with pre-orders opening in summer 2021. "That market is bigger than the three-wheel market," he says.
Bell also teases several unannounced "game-changing, disruptive products" in the Vanderhall pipeline, not all of them vehicles. "They're not 'me too' products," he says. "They're unique and classic."
More broadly, the prime opportunity is "expansion of the brand throughout the world," he adds. With an annual winter slowdown in the U.S., Vanderhall is aggressively targeting international markets to smooth seasonal fluctuations in the sales curve. "Having an expansion of the brand throughout the world is really exciting," he says. "The Middle East is especially exciting, because here in the U.S., we typically slow down on sales in the winter. . . . In the Middle East, their prime season starts in November."
Needs: Awareness. "We would love to have something go viral and have everybody know who we are all of a sudden," says Bell. The best marketing, he notes, is "seeing these things in the wild. I've had people try to pull me over: 'Where did you get that?'"
Vanderhall is in the midst of an expansion to 400,000 square feet, and ultimately more than 1 million square feet. "We're in a good place," says Bell. "We own all the land already to expand out. Every 18 months to 24 months, we'll be adding another facility."