Born in South Africa, and immigrating to the US less than 15 years ago; learn how Ian Grunes quit his job to start the company behind one of today’s fastest track cars. Respected in the automotive industry, as well as a racing brand, Ian shares with us all his thoughts, challenges and successes on how the Rossion Q1 was born and where its bright future lies; but one thing is for sure. He will never forget what it was like to work for $2.50 per day.
We recently had our photographer Pepper Perfect do a full shoot of the latest Rossion Q1 which you might have already heard of from our previous feature on this amazing supercar found HERE, but you might have also heard about it from our last month’s Secret to Success story on Ian Mason who recently ordered one as a symbol of his success. The car is amazing, and the story behind it happens to be too, and so we decided to understand how one man plans to change the supercar industry one car enthusiast at a time.
Meet Ian Grunes, Owner of Rossion Automotive… Tell us about yourself?
I was was born in Durban, South Africa. I immigrated to the USA in December, 1997. I am a post graduate, honors student from the University of South Africa. I graduated with an accounting degree. I worked for a Public Accounting and Audit company for 5 years and then was hired by an Insurance company as their Senior Manager of Finance and was integral part of the senior management team. Then I quit, which was the best move of my career…
I resigned to join Dean Rosen in the importation of American cars into South Africa. American cars both classic and new exotics has always been a passion and this was a way in which I could combine work and his passion. In December of 1997 we sold the business and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to join Dean’s father in the importation of super performance car’s into the USA. This lead to becoming the sole distributor of Noble cars in the USA and finally an owner of Rossion Automotive.
Rossion is a fairly new company, can you tell us what you do?
We manufacture the Rossion Q1, a high performance super-car that allows the driver to get back to the roots of the driving experience. We designed the Q1 to be the quickest, best handling, sexiest car on the road with a low cost of ownership in comparison to many other brands. Cars today have way too many devices that impede the driving experience. In many cases the car is providing more input than the driver. We believe in giving the driver the control. The Q1 will still outperform many drivers capabilities, but delivering the most exhilarating experience for the money is what we are all about.
How did you guys come up with the name Rossion?
It is a combination of our names. “Ros” is for Rosen, and the “ion” portion is a play on my first name of Ian. It rolls off of the tongue better with the extra S.
What is so unique about the Rossion Q1 and how does it differ from the Lotus Elise?
The Q1 is substantially quicker than a Lotus Elise or Exige. With 450HP, 395 ft. lbs of torque, and a weight of 2600 lbs, we can deliver 0-60 times of 3.1 seconds and achieve 1.09 lateral g-forces on street tires. Not only are we on a different level in regards to performance, but the interior is remarkably spacious and full of creature comforts!
What are the specs on the Rossion?
450 HP and 390 ft. lbs of torque in a car that weighs 2600 lbs. The engine is a 3.0 Liter twin turbocharged V6 that is mated to a 6 speed transaxle. On street tires the car can achieve 1.09 lateral g’s of grip, and it can achieve 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. The Q1 is a mid-engine, rear wheel drive car.
Word has it that you used to work at Noble, and that this is the by-product of your branch off from the brand?
As 1G Racing, we were the sole distributors for Noble Automotive in the USA, and we sold 220 M12’s & M400’s. In 2007 we purchased the rights to the Noble M12/M400. We had a vast amount of knowledge of the Noble so once we acquired the right’s, we made over 200 changes to the car to develop the Q1. Smoother lines more horsepower, better suspension and interior creature comforts are just a few examples.
Is there still any relationship with Noble?
There is no relationship. We purchased all of the rights to the M12/M400 from Noble in 2006. We are not associated in any way with Noble Automotive of the UK. I do not have any knowledge of their plans for the future.
What kind of clientelle buy Rossions?
We find that our customers are pure driving enthusiasts. There are no computers to impede the driving experience. Our customers feel like they are one with the car. We have some well respected pro-am drivers, successful entrepreneurs, and engineers that call themselves Rossion owners.
Do you consider yourselves direct competitors with Lamborghini & Ferrari?
No. Lamborghini and Ferrari build fantastic cars, and they are very good at what they do. We offer an alternative. We look at Rossion as always being a company that produces vehicles with supercar performance figures, a much lower cost of ownership, and a lower production volume to maintain exclusivity.
Do you fear some of the new competitors entering the market such as the Mclaren MP4 or 458 Italia.
No. The McLaren MP4 and the 458 Italia are cars that retail for over $100k more than ours. We provide the same driving pleasures but at a fraction of the cost and with a much lower cost of ownership.
How custom can you order Rossions?
The cars can be painted in any color, and the interiors can be customized with a number of different leather or alcantara options. We offer many different color wheels and calipers, and for our track guys we can put various components on the car in which to provide a more aggressive track experience.
When looking back at your previous role, what made you decide to branch off?
We believe that the Noble M400 has the attributes of an outstanding supercar in just about every respect. When the opportunity presented itself to acquire the rights to the chassis,we jumped at the opportunity. We believed that it would be a tragic loss to the supercar market if the Noble M400 was no longer produced. We had a vast amount of data, customer feedback, R&D, and sales experience which gave us all the tools we needed to continue the spirit of the Noble M400 in the Rossion Q1.
What was your first job?
My first job was unfortunately not automotive related. At the tender young age of 13 years old I cut material for a textile company in Johannesburg South Africa during school vacation. This would never be allowed today as I used an automated rotating saw to do this. I was paid R5 (five South African Rand) per day which was equivalent to about $2.50 per day some 29 years ago.
What does the future look like for Rossion?
Incredibly bright! We are currently establishing a USA dealer network, and we have distribution setup in South Africa, China, Thailand, and many other parts of the world. New models are currently being tested, and brand marketing is continuing to grow as well!
What kept you motivated this whole time?
Our passion for performance cars. Everyone that works at Rossion Automotive is a true automotive enthusiast. If we are not at the office you will find us at track days, autocross events, car shows, or even building race cars! Not every day is full of sunshine and happiness, but when you love what you are doing, you can overcome huge obstacles.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
You name it, we have overcome it. From R&D frustrations, supplier issues, global economic conditions, export regulations, etc. I think the biggest challenge is branding. When you are a new company your name is everything. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if nobody knows you exist, you accomplish nothing. Not giving up and staying consistent are key to succeeding.
How did you go about finding your first customers for Noble and Rossion?
By marketing the cars at highline automotive events.
So what are you doing now to get more word out about the car?
We are growing the brand through sales, social networking, print marketing, video game placement (Xbox 360 Forza 3), auto shows, and establishing a dealer network.
What is success to you guys?
Being able to continue doing what we are doing for decades to come. Developing new models, exploring different marketing strategies, maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction, and entering the professional motorsports arena are just some of our goals for the forseable future. Ultimately we would like to grow Rossion into a world recognized high performance automotive brand.
Was there a time when you felt you would not make it?
I have absolute confidence that Rossion is going to more than just make. We have a dedicated team of enthusiasts that work with me and are all consumed by the success of the Q1 and other models that will unfold. If you stay focused on a product that you truly believe in, surround yourself with great people, and focus on the future while never forgetting where you came from, then nothing can stop you.
What do you say to people that call the Rossion a kit car?
They are mistaken. In almost every other country the Rossion is shipped from the factory as a complete car. In order to allow for USA importation we have to import the car as a complete rolling chassis, and have the drive train installed once the car gets stateside. Think of it as the same way Shelby brought over the Cobra in the 60’s!
Whats on your wrist?
I wear a Rossion branded watch which I wear with much pride.
“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.” – Marva Collins
Well, we want to thank Ian for sharing his success with us and wish him our best in the upcoming years as more Rossion cars enter the supercar market and make their way into the lives of the car enthusiast worldwide. Make sure to check out more on the Rossion Q1 and learn more about the upcoming models at www.Rossioncars.com.