Currently reading: The outstanding UK leaders pushing their brands forward
Autocar Awards 2022: We salute those in the motoring industry

They are the people who over the past couple of years have used exceptional skills to sustain and build automotive businesses. And we'd like to celebrate them.

This year we are naming two people as Autocar’s Outstanding UK Leaders.

Guy Pigounakis

New car sales were almost flat in the UK last year, due to the well-publicised chip shortage, but there was one mainstream maker in particular that bucked the trend: MG.

Its sales rose a phenomenal 66% over 2020, from 18,415 to 30,600. For commercial director Guy Pigounakis, the man overseeing this success, it’s déjà vu: he was part of the team that launched the MGF in 1995, before spending time at Hyundai and retailers.

Now MG is a different, Chinese-owned world in which Pigounakis has a growing list of happy retailers, an impressive electric sales mix (a third) and plans to diversify into car-sharing. It would be easy to dismiss MG’s success as an anomaly, due to it not suffering from constricted supply, but Pigounakis says that’s false.

“A lot of people jumped to the conclusion that we did really well because we could get cars and nobody else could, but that’s absolutely not the case,” he says. “We probably lost 4000 to 5000 registrations last year for lack of supply.

“Our best-selling car is the petrol ZS, and we didn’t have any to sell for nine weeks, which had a massive impact, as you might imagine.”

If last year was good, this year is set to be even better for MG, says Pigounakis: “This year’s sales plan was exceeded in orders six weeks into the year. The biggest challenge is to make sure we get the production to satisfy those orders. And we’re taking between 200 and 300 orders every day, so the bank is only getting bigger. But it’s a fantastic problem to have.”

Describing MG’s upcoming electric family hatchback, the 4, Pigounakis sums up the very philosophy that’s leading the brand’s meteoric rise: “It stays true to our values of getting more from an MG. The car has to represent cutting-edge technology. It needs to be exciting and it needs to represent fantastic value for money.”

Dan Geoghegan

Dan Geoghegan, founder and CEO of Bicester Motion, has since 2014 led the creation from scratch of a thriving classic car business that today generates £100 million a year and promises to do even better as it progresses a unique plan to link mobility’s past with its fast-changing future.

Geoghegan says the idea struck him during a period of reflection after a serious accident in 2013: he set out to establish some kind of bigscale meeting venue in Oxfordshire for car and aviation enthusiasts with a similar passion to his own.

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Using a characteristically thoughtful approach and proven skills at start-up companies, he found and acquired the former RAF base at Bicester, a 600-acre site with a remarkable retinue of pristine 1920s buildings, whereupon his idea became a reality as Bicester Heritage. Soon he had several dozen likeminded tenants with similar goals, providing action and attraction in a place that grew rapidly as a busy, favourite destination for car lovers of all persuasions.

The real potential of the idea was unleashed when Geoghegan and his team launched plans to use the attractions to draw in other businesses and to divide the huge site into four separate quarters: Heritage; Wilderness for day visitors and campers; Experience for drivers and the car companies who need their custom; and Innovation for start-up technology businesses seeking new premises in a savvy, tech-aware environment.

Development is far from complete, but a vital brick in the wall was recently added when localauthority approval came through for the Experience centre, always likely to be the most controversial because of its driving circuits, active airfield and 4x4 track. Back in the 1920s, RAF Bicester was a national showpiece, a hub for developing and testing the biggest developments in aviation. Geoghegan reckons it was “almost the Google headquarters of its day”.

He firmly believes it can be an ideal environment for inspiring technical progress today, as it did in its first golden age a century ago

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