Formula E

ERT manager O'Hagan reveals: This is why we are not competing as a Formula E customer team

Timo Pape

Timo Pape

The Chinese-British manufacturer ERT - formerly Nio 333 - has become a back-bench team in Formula E in recent years, even if things have recently picked up slightly. As a drive constructor, however, it was a "conscious business decision" not to compete as a customer team of a top manufacturer, reveals Deputy Team Principal Russell O'Hagan. ERT wants to attract a major manufacturer instead.

O'Hagan admits that ERT has often considered the possibility of customer team status. "As part of our ongoing strategy, we regularly review the customer team business model and what that would look like for us. I have no doubt that with the right supplier - together with the team and drivers we have - we could win races immediately."

As a customer team, you can concentrate much more on the operational details and improving performance on race weekends, says the Briton. "There is a certain clarity and you don't have the risk of exploring new areas, as we sometimes have to do. Especially given our limited testing opportunities," O'Hagan continues to argue in favour of customer team status.

The fact that a customer team, Envision Racing, became world champion last season - while ERT languished at the back of the field - strengthens O'Hagan's arguments. "We are the fifth-best manufacturer out of six - behind powerful rivals such as Jaguar, Porsche, Stellantis and Nissan. In a championship where four manufacturers currently have the upper hand, that can quickly mean you're competing against eight teams or 16 cars."

Why won't ERT be a customer team?

So why does ERT continue to compete as an independent manufacturer and develop its own Formula E powertrains? "A good question," says O'Hagan, "but also one that is relatively easy to answer, even if it is complex." The first advantage of being an independent manufacturer is control.

"It's important for us to be in complete control of our own destiny," explains O'Hagan. "As a customer team, you can't guarantee the supply you need 100 per cent of the time."

In the long term, there is also the possibility that Formula E will become more centred around the manufacturers again, as was the case in the Gen2 era a few years ago. "Once you have become a customer team, we believe it would be a hugely difficult task to become a manufacturer again."

The ERT approach could thus be beneficial in the long term. "Despite the challenges ahead, we build on our strengths, resources, experience and knowledge every season. We are all very excited about the introduction of our Gen3 Evo car next season, which will be much more efficient."

Business strategy: "The aim is to get another OEM on board"

Another aspect is the return on investment, as ERT is first and foremost a business. "The balance of our activities as a racing team and manufacturer (...) is crucial for the value of the company. As a manufacturer, our greatest opportunity lies in long-term added value, growth and success based on our knowledge and intellectual property."

Apparently, this expertise should form the basis for the sale to a car manufacturer (or at least its entry). O'Hagan reveals: "Our clear goal is to get another OEM on board (after our former partner Nio)." The rumour mill has indeed been buzzing in recent weeks and months. One possible interested party could be the Chinese e-car manufacturer BYD.

"It is of great value to us to be at the forefront of creating new electrified solutions and products. Over time, they will feed into the wider motorsport and automotive performance sector. We are increasingly focused on commercialising this capability and recognising the value of the engineering work we do every day," O'Hagan continues, praising his team. Ultimately, this "hunger" for technological progress is another reason for wanting to remain a manufacturer. "We love what we do," says O'Hagan.

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