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Vibrant SMEs of JAPAN

Resurrecting a dream sports car as an EV [GREEN LORD MOTORS]

Secret to Robustness
  • Optimized for the niche sports car market
  • Complete use of external companies from development through manufacturing
  • Has the local advantage of Kyoto, with its concentration of parts makers

The famous Tommykaira ZZ was resurrected as an electric vehicle (EV) by Green Lord Motors, a venture company born from Kyoto University. Optimized for the niche sports car market, the new car became available for order in May 2013. Production is limited to just 99 units. The company plans to sell the whole production run within 2014.

Project led by Kyoto University vice president

Green Lord Motors was founded in 2010. Its predecessor was the Kyoto Electric Car Project, launched in 1996 by Kyoto University’s Venture Business Laboratory. The effort was spearheaded by Kazumi Matsushige, who was then vice president of the university, with research and development proceeding in partnership with Kyoto parts makers. “I heard the professor say during a lecture that he planned to create an EV using only Kyoto resources, and I raised my hand and said I wanted to participate,” recalls GLM president Hiroyasu Koma. Koma was already running a different venture company, and was attending graduate school at Kyoto University. to formally study management.
Why did this venture company decide to build a sports car, and why the Tommykaira ZZ? At the time that they were studying how to evolve from a university project to a business, one prospect was a compact car, which would have a greater sales expectation. However, “the major car makers are participating in the compact EV market. That means cars must compete on price, and a small venture company can’t win. In the sports car arena, however, the market maybe small, but the major makers don’t want to participate from the cost performance aspect,” explains Koma.
The chosen target, the Tommykaira ZZ, is a sports car that was sold in 1997 by a small Kyoto company originally known as Tomita Dream Factory. When Koma established Green Lord Motors, Akira Matsumoto, a development manager for the Tommykaira ZZ, knocked on his door. The ZZ went on sale in 1997, but after 206 cars had been sold, changes in safety standards were set to force drastic structural changes to the car, and production ended with more than 400 orders still unfulfilled. The car still has a deep-rooted popularity as a dream sports car. There was no way this famous car, the pride of Kyoto, could go without a revival. The updated Tommykaira ZZ accelerates from 0 to 100 km/hr in just 3.9 seconds. With acceleration that surpasses gasoline-powered sports cars, “once you experience it, you can’t go back,” says Koma.

The right number of people to generate excitement

Green Lord Motors has just 12 employees. Production was outsourced to Kosaka Kinzoku Industries, located in Maizuru City, Kyoto Prefecture. The number of people involved in that business, including parts makers and individual engineers, is more than 100. “Other than things like determining the performance tests, we outsource everything. If we had more employees, we’d need large volume production so they could eat. Then we couldn’t do things that were really interesting and exciting,” says Koma.
Despite the small numbers, GLM has a very tight cooperative relationship with its suppliers. GLM has created an ecosystem of suppliers, centered on parts makers within Kyoto Prefecture. By making technical information like the chassis design open, even when a large maker would hold that a closely guarded secret, GLM is able to receive a variety of technical suggestions from their suppliers.
In November 2013, GLM’s fundraising (from venture capital, etc.) reached 600 million yen. In addition to their showroom in Grand Front Osaka (Kita-ku, Osaka City), which was opened in April 2013, GLM is also exhibiting a model car in Tokyo. GLM is not currently planning to expand their sales activities broadly, but is rather pinpointing sports car fans in their promotions.
GLM’s fundraising goes not only to producing the Tommykaira ZZ, but also toward a platform business where they supply the chassis to outside companies. GLM has already participated in a motor show in Malaysia, and has received many inquiries from foreign makers. “We’d like to further develop our ecosystem with parts makers in order to succeed in the platform business. We’d like to be the ‘Wintel’ of the automobile industry. If we succeed on the world stage, Kyoto parts makers will also benefit,” enthuses Koma.

Tommykaira ZZ

Tommykaira ZZ

One Point: Key Point is Foreign Market

The key to venture success: “encounters”

From former Kyoto University vice president Matsushige to the Tomita Dream Factory designer Matsumoto, the thing that has brought Green Lord Motors to its present state is encounters with a variety of people. The ecosystem that encompasses suppliers and outside engineers is also formed from the accumulation of many encounters. From the story of GLM, you can’t help but feel that the critical factor in making a venture successful is in how to grasp the chances presented by such encounters.

Company Data

President : Hiroyasu Koma

President : Hiroyasu Koma

Company name GREENLORDMOTERS. Co., Ltd
President Hiroyasu Koma
Industry Type Electric Car Maker
Address Kyoto University Venture Laboratory, Yoshida-honmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Phone 0774-39-8822

Printing day:March 28, 2014

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