Online Editor Simon Wittenberg chats to Isobel Dando, CEO of MOKE International, about bringing an iconic car back to the UK after 56 years, a vehicle synonymous with the celebrity lifestyle, James Bond films, and even The Beatles.
Luxurious Magazine: With an automotive career spanning two decades, what are your career highlights to date?
Isobel Dando: I’m proud of my achievements wherever I’ve been. Whether that’s in roles at Rolls-Royce, the BMW Group or my current work with Jaguar Land Rover and MOKE. However, I always look forward in my career.
MOKE is one of the most cherished British brands. It has captivated people across the world for over a century from surfers to Beach Boys, Beatles and Brigette Bardot – the prospect of bringing it back to life and adding to this incredible legacy fills me with great pride.
The response we’ve enjoyed since announcing the brand’s return has been remarkable. It’s affirmed to everyone involved the warmth people around the world have towards the brand. I’m certain this will be one of the great chapters in my career.
LM: Why was the decision taken to bring the MOKE back to the UK after an absence of more than half a century?
ID: Since its introduction more than half a century ago, there has been clamour across the globe for the spirit of fun that MOKE provides. As a collective, we are drawn from the worlds of hospitality, luxury, automotive and engineering. This provided a unique perspective on the potential for the brand to reclaim its rightful place as the ultimate shore to beach house shuttle across the globe. As MOKE International, we are very proud to bring this iconic and cherished piece of British design home.
LM: Technology has moved on, so how does the latest version of the MOKE differ from the Mini MOKE, which first appeared in Britain in 1964?
ID: When conceiving a MOKE for the 21st century, we took extraordinary care with the balance, creating a car that responds to today’s requirements with that raw sense of fun that drew so many to the original. Fortunately, in Mark Truman, we are able to draw upon years of experience creating specialist cars for Jaguar Land Rover. Mark and his team developed the perfect approach to the brief, integrating important elements like power steering, a choice between manual and automatic transmission, and improvements to ride and handling through uprated suspension.
The result is a MOKE perfectly adapted for contemporary use, but absolutely in keeping with the charm and driver engagement of the original.
LM: The Limited Edition ‘MOKE 56’ has been introduced to mark the significant occasion of the brand coming back to UK shores. Who is your target audience for the car, as this is quite a niche offering?
ID: MOKE has always drawn a diverse global audience bound by one common factor. This is that they are absolutely captivated with the charm and sense of fun that is unique to MOKE. Clearly, MOKEs are most commonly associated with coastal hotspots, and we are already seeing an incredible response from private buyers and luxury hospitality entities in locations like Cowes, Cornwall and North Norfolk.
However, there certainly exists a core of buyers who will enjoy their MOKEs in more inland settings. In the medium term, we very much look forward to re-introducing MOKE to key markets including California, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Europe, and are actively talking to prospective dealer partners in these key areas.
LM: How much will buyers be able to customise their MOKE and make it their own?
ID: We know that MOKE customers delight in expressing their personalities through the scope for personalisation. In fact, it’s been incredible how much fun people have had creating personal design schemes on our digital configurator. In fact, I invite Luxurious Magazine’s readers to do the same!
LM: Where are the cars built, and how long can customers expect to wait to take delivery after ordering one?
ID: We engineer the cars in Britain’s automotive heartland in the Midlands, and they are sent for final assembly in France. Order books are open now for Spring 2021 delivery – just in time for the European summer season.
LM: What engine does the MOKE use, and why was the decision taken to use one where CO2 emissions only meet the Euro 4 standard?
ID: In every sense, we have looked to capture the spirit of the original MOKE – this extends to the profile of powertrain. However, today’s customers demand absolute reliability. We have therefore worked to source a highly proven powertrain perfectly suited to create a fun and engaging drive in a lightweight, open vehicle.
LM: Are you looking at introducing hybrid or electric versions in the future?
ID: We are currently experiencing extraordinary demand for MOKEs in their current powertrain configuration. However, we are constantly looking to the future and will make an announcement on product innovations when the time is right. We are convinced that an alternative powertrain fulfils the brief to provide an authentic MOKE experience.
LM: When you’re not at work, what are your personal luxuries in life?
ID: I am lucky to live with my husband and two children in a beautiful corner of West Sussex. We live close to the sea and within the South Downs National Park – this is the absolute perfect space to get out and enjoy time at the weekends in a MOKE!
LM: Thank you for your time Isobel, and it has been a pleasure talking to you.
MOKE International – Where and How?
UK buyers can order either the limited edition ’MOKE 56’ or the standard MOKE Classic. Indicative pricing starts at £20,000, excluding local taxes and delivery.
For more information on MOKE International and to contact Isobel Dando, visit www.mokeinternational.com.
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