Above: Xtrac received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its integrated lightweight electric vehicle transmission (ILEV) system, a gearbox family designed for the next generation of high-performance electric vehicles planned by manufacturers including Aston Martin and Lotus
His latest update to almost 400 highly-qualified colleagues at Xtrac’s UK headquarters and manufacturing facility in Berkshire alongside US sales, technical support and assembly operations in Indiana and North Carolina was a very different scenario from two years ago for chief executive Adrian Moore.
Above: Xtrac R&D engineer and technician Stacey Yates and Rob Cool prepare an IndyCar P1011 gearbox for assessment on the company’s end-of-line rig test
“We remained open for business throughout the global pandemic. Our clear strategy has enabled us to adapt quickly to an ever-changing situation and provide the highest level of customer service in what is now the new normal.”
Immediately preceding the Covid outbreak, the UK’s privately-owned motorsport transmission specialist had unveiled innovative technology for battery electric vehicles at a well-attended annual Autosport International exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC. It was a busy stand unveiling new and innovative transmissions at Europe’s premier motorsport show.
With its renowned policy of investing in people, it was also immersed in recruiting apprentices, machinists, undergraduates, graduates and professional engineers interested in pursuing a career in the motorsport and high-performance automotive industry sector.
Fast forward a couple of months to the UK’s first national lockdown, and there was one question and only one question he needed to address. For a company exporting 70% of every transmission system and driveline component it manufactures, what was the company’s outlook during the global pandemic? There was no avoiding significant social and economic disruption, including the largest global recession since the Great Depression.
Within 12 months, Moore confidently informed employees that Xtrac was recovering from the effects of the pandemic faster than expected. Significantly, he announced the company’s two biggest contracts ever, one in motorsport and the other in the automotive sector. It was strong evidence that Xtrac could swiftly resume its export-driven high growth performance.
Widely acknowledged within the global motorsport industry as the world’s leading supplier of transmission systems, Xtrac continued to invest in its manufacturing, R&D test rigs and engineering capability to maintain its competitiveness. Fast recovery and further scale-up of the business increased its headcount to almost 400 employees, which is a record level of employment for the company. Meanwhile, it continues investing in its hugely successful undergraduate and apprentice training programmes, including the opening of the Xtrac Academy at the start of 2022 to provide more focused in-house training, particularly for apprentices.
Today, the company continues expanding its High-Performance Automotive (HPA) operations. Moore drives it enthusiastically to ensure it will account for almost half of sales revenue by 2025 while also growing the Motorsport business.
“These hypercar projects are not just for the super-rich,” says Moore, who also speaks
with the authority of a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “They’re crucial testbeds for developing alternative propulsion systems, including next-generation battery and hydrogen fuel-cell technologies. Whatever the propulsion system, vehicles need highly efficient transmission systems for delivering power and torque to the wheels, and many future mainstream passenger cars will deploy sophisticated all-wheel drive and torque-vectoring systems.”
Xtrac continues as a significant UK exporter and key supplier within a highly integrated motorsport industry supply chain. Despite the dire situation in Ukraine and its geopolitical and economic impact, Moore foresees an exciting future for the company. He maintains that vision, despite needing to adhere to more stringent export processes due to Brexit and the effects of the pandemic and the Ukrainian conflict on
global supply chains, particularly the rapid inflationary costs of raw materials and energy. Its compelling technology could help make motorsport even more exciting while influencing the crucial evolution of the next generation of net zero emission vehicles.
“Today, there is no doubt that motorsport is leading the development of EV technology,” says Moore. “We supply electric drive unit transmissions for key customers in Formula E and are the single-source transmission supplier for the FIA’s electric rallycross eWRX championship and the new hybrid LMDh Sportscar series. And with the UK’s 2030 legislation banning petrol and diesel cars, the development of EVs and hybrids is driving the technology giving us the global green transitions we need.”
“As elsewhere, the pandemic affected all of our staff here in the UK and our US operation,” says Moore. “Therefore, it was timely and buoyed our spirits to receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2020 and the Princess Royal Training Award in 2021.”
“To receive not one but two Royal patronage awards was a real honour and morale booster for the company,” continues Moore. “They underlined the opportunities for UK businesses to develop electric vehicle technology and validated our investment in the technology, people and skills necessary to make it happen.”
For further information, visit www.xtrac.com
“The outbreak of Covid and subsequent global issues undoubtedly challenge companies like Xtrac,” says Moore. “They can happen suddenly and test our management skills and ability to handle a crisis. Our workforce is incredible and our strongest asset. The flexibility and support of employees have been unwavering, and I can’t thank them enough for the trust they place in the leadership team and me.
“I asked all our staff to focus on our customers’ needs and ensure that we could support them throughout the pandemic and help them come out the other side once motorsport re-started. Similarly, we focused on ensuring our customer-driven and technology-driven High-Performance Automotive (HPA) programmes continued on time.
“The same approach from our workforce is true to enable us to successfully deal with the global supply chain effects of the Ukrainian crisis. The inflationary pressure on energy and raw material as a direct consequence of the conflict is a challenge for the whole industry. We cannot ignore the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine. At Xtrac, we are proud to be supporting the Red Cross Disasters Emergency Committee with their efforts in providing food and hygiene parcels directly to displaced people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.”
Xtrac is an exemplar of an investible and scalable automotive engineering company, and it certainly aligns with the government’s mission of driving growth in new and emerging technologies. It typifies the upper echelons of mid-sized manufacturing businesses.
Investment continues to fuel Xtrac’s future expansion. It has extended the factory and equipped it with world-class machinery and R&D testing equipment. Moreover, it has further advanced its capabilities in the research and innovation of advanced transmission systems for hybrid and electric vehicles in the motorsport and high-performance automotive sectors.
“Persevering with innovation and providing our customers with the best service remain our highest priorities and have proved to be our best protection in a global crisis,” says Moore. “Inflexion shares these values, and they support Xtrac’s longstanding ethos of employee ownership.”
Xtrac’s award-winning Employee Benefit Trust was established in 1997 when Peter Digby, now the company president, led a management buyout that included all employees. Working with government, industry and academic bodies, the company runs apprenticeship schemes, undergraduate and postgraduate training programmes, and tailored personal development for all staff members. More than a third of the 127 apprentices and undergraduates trained over the past 30 years remain with the company.
“It is important to recognise how difficult the last two years have been for all our staff and acknowledge how successfully they have ensured the longevity of the business in which many of them remain shareholders,” says Moore. “It suggests that a well-prepared company, which all its employees and investors willingly and wholeheartedly support, working closely with customers, can best cope with whatever problems are thrown at us.”
Above: NASCAR recently appointed Xtrac as the sole gearbox and driveline supplier for NASCAR’s 2022 Next Gen Cup Car. The company’s P1334 motorsport transmission is a 5-speed manual sequential transaxle. As a controlled unit, NASCAR prioritised durability and reliability in its specification without compromising the NextGen car’s performance