Marussia: how to kill a dream
The Russian brand has been dead since 2014, and I think it's time to revisit the reason why it happened.
Marussia will go down in history as one of the most ambitious car companies of all time, remembered for its obsession with creating supercars that could rival the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari. Yet, its death also serves as a reminder of what happens when a company is managed poorly and attempts to do too many things at once.
The release of the B-series supercars B1 and B2 in 2009 brought the company into the international spotlight, and pre-orders for the cars were soaring. Official company dealerships were established worldwide, the B2 was featured in several prominent racing video games, and Marussia even became the title sponsor of the Virgin Racing F1 Team, later renaming it Marussia F1 Team.
However, underneath this image of success lay a massive problem for the company: the cars were being revealed to the public even before they had done any sort of certification tests that would make them road-legal in foreign markets. The chief designer of the car even remarked than the company had "gone from vehicle production to showbiz".
Even though the B1 and B2 were still yet to be tested, Marussia continued working on projects such as a new car in the B-series, and two SUVs that were set to make up the F-series.
Jules Bianchi driving for Marussia F1 in 2014
When testing on the B1 and B2 was finally underway, a fatal issue was spotted; because of small air intakes, the engine cooling system was able to deliver barely any oxygen to the engine to keep it cool, causing it to overheat. There were complaints about the cooling system even during construction of prototypes, but they all fell on deaf ears.
Post-2011, the brand began do experience several problems that would eventually lead to its downfall, including the chief designer leaving the company after falling out with CEO Nikolai Fomenko, and Nissan ceasing provision of its engines and transmissions to the company, although Fomenko was soon able to partner up with Cosworth.
This process however further postponed the testing of the cars and thus their serial production. Moreover, the Marussia F1 Team was doing immensely poorly in the championships, scoring only 2 points between 2012 and 2014, thus preventing any investors from becoming attracted to the brand. This was made even worse by the crash that put F1 racing driver Jules Bianchi into a coma and resulted in him dying a year later.
In an attempt to gain financing, Marussia partnered with the Russian government to produce vehicles for the army and for the government officials. Both deals however eventually fell through.
As a final resort, the company partnered up with Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive in order to produce their F-series SUVs. Predictably however, that project also failed, and in 2014 Marussia was declared bankrupt and shut its doors. The F1 Team was renamed to Manor Marussia F1 Team in 2015, before changing its name again in 2016 to Manor Racing.
This then is the story of how a company with lots of potential had its hopes dashed by poor management and financial incompetence. Honestly, I would love to see it resurrected by some prominent businessman, because to be honest it's depressing for something so promising to come undone in such a short time.