Reliant car company sets out on road to recovery

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The new owner of the Reliant motor company will today reopen the production plant at Tamworth, Staffordshire, hoping that his rescue package will take the firm - manufacturer of the the famous three-wheeled Robin - into the 21st century.

And he will be hoping for better luck than that experienced yesterday by members of the Chesterfield Canal Society, who took to the water in a Reliant powered by a marine engine as part of a stunt to celebrate the opening of a renovated lock. A quarter of the way into the journey from Retford, Nottinghamshire, the engine failed and the crew had to paddle the rest of the way.

The company has been taken over by a former Jaguar executive, Jonathon Heynes, in a pounds 300,000 deal. Mr Heynes has said up to 90 workers could be back working at the plant within a month but he added that workers would only be re- employed when enough parts had been built to make the fibre-glass cars.

The company employed 110 workers before going bust. Only 12 staff remained finishing work on 50 incomplete cars after administrators were called into the company in December last year.

"I will be going into the plant to speak to them after the Bank Holiday and will then be speaking to former employees with a view to getting them back in," said Mr Heynes.

More than 350 creditors were owed pounds 1.12m from Reliant including former workers who are owed on average pounds 900 each.

Mr Heynes has bought the UK rights to the car while a Far East consortium has bought the world-wide rights for pounds 500,000.

Plans to revitalise the company, whose models also include the Kitten and Scimitar, involve an open-backed pick-up based around the original Reliant 850cc engine, and a buggy style vehicle based on the cult Bond Bug car of the 1970s for sale to holiday resorts in competition with the Mini Moke.

EU rules will also mean a rethink in construction because new directives state that the majority of components in a car must be recyclable, which means the traditional fibreglass body may well be replaced by steel.