The worst fears of automotive experts were confirmed after administrators said the technical know-how of electric van pioneer Modec would be leaving the country.
Coventry-based Modec’s collapse prompted calls for a British buyer to come forward in a bid to retain the firm’s electric vehicle technology assets for the UK.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who officially opened the factory in 2007, labelled the firm a “pathfinder” during a visit to the city last month and expressed a wish for a buyer to come forward.
But hopes were dashed after administrators Zolfo Cooper said it was not able to sell the firm as a going concern.
The remaining assets have been sold to Navistar, Modec’s US joint venture partner.
Rachel Eade, who supports the automotive supply sector in the region at MAS-WM Auto, was among those who had hoped for a UK buyer to come forward.
She said that in the long term, Modec’s collapse could have wider repercussions across the UK electric vehicle market.
“We said when the news broke about the administration that we would want to retain the best parts of the business in the UK, but sadly this has not happened,” she said.
“The immediate impact on the supply chain, except for one or two companies, will not be too significant due to the low volumes involved in production.
“However, the bigger issue is the potential for skills and brain drain that will come from no longer having this type of innovator in our region, not to mention the psychological barrier for future investment in the electric vehicle arena.”
She added: “Modec was ahead of the game in its innovation and that can be a dangerous place to be, especially if the customers you are targeting are not fully receptive to the advantages your product brings.
“There are also issues around the development of battery technology being a long way from getting the commercial and fleet market interested in it, something the US company which has taken the intellectual property will have to invest significantly in to make it work.”
Modec was set up by former Manganese Bronze chairman Lord Jamie Borwick, who also provided financial backing to the firm.
In 2009, the van-maker set up a joint venture with Navistar to start a US production line supplying the huge North and South American markets.
It has since emerged that Modec had been in talks with Navistar about a takeover by the US firm, but negotiations fell through at the last minute according to Lord Borwick, precipitating its collapse into administration.