A few weeks back I was at the Bedford Autodrome when a Morgan 3 Wheeler suffered a suspension failure.
I was some distance away and saw only the aftermath of the ensuing accident, but it was one of those scenes that makes you feel ill more for what could have happened rather than what actually did. The car was seriously damaged but mercifully its entirely innocent occupant seemed not much more than severely shaken by the experience.
I can remember wondering what Morgan’s response would be, for I’ve known other small car companies blame everyone and everything when someone has pointed the finger at them. Not Morgan. Despite having considerable scope to try and wriggle out of it by blaming the man rather than the machine, Morgan elected to play it with a straight bat. It admitted the suspension failure caused the accident and not the other way around, and said that the front wishbones had bent, pulling out the ball-joints and detaching the wheel as a result of being weakened during previous track use. It went on to say it will now use wishbones that are some 20 per cent stronger and that it will retro-fit them to all M3Ws whose owners want them free of charge.
Good enough? Not quite. What Morgan is not doing is actually recalling the cars, or at least not publically. I hope that in private it has made calls to all owners around the world telling them to use their cars only for gentle road use until they can get the new wishbones. I think this not only because it is clearly the right thing to do, but also should a similar failure happen but with somewhat more serious consequences and it could be shown to be the result of a known pre-existing weakness in the suspension, then Morgan could find itself up to its neck in litigation. It could also earn the 3-Wheeler a reputation that would likely prove hard to shake.
Of course you take a risk every time you get in this Morgan and it’s got nothing to do with its unorthodox wheel count. Like many other ultra-low volume, largely handmade cars or indeed any classic car, it comes without the computer designed crumple zones, sophisticated electronics and myriad other safety nets we take for granted in mass-produced modern tin boxes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just before its accident I’d been skidding around Bedford in the Morgan having a wonderful time and not sparing a thought for the fact my right arm was effectively outside the car and my head so far above the roll bar it might as well have not been there.
But there’s a difference between the dangers you know and accept as an unavoidable component of the driving experience you seek, and those you do not. In this case there should be no circumstances in which a wheel can become detached from such a car on any tarmac surface, be it road or track, unless as a direct result of impact damage.
Morgan actually has an opportunity here: the chance to show that while its cars may be retro, its attitude to customer care is anything but. It can engage with its clients over an issue most if not all will understand and make them feel included, valued and cared for at the same time. Or it can stand firm, force its customers to be pro-active and take the substantial risk that, sooner or later, someone else is going to come a cropper for similar reasons and with untold consequences. In that position, I know which path I’d choose.