Matt James has designed revolutionary light rail trams in the UK, Aston Martin sports cars that have won their class at the Le Mans 24-hour race, and a scrambler version of the legendary Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. So it’d have to be a pretty special project to get this worldly-wise engineer and project manager revved up.
But the Savic C-Series fits the bill – and not only because it presents an opportunity to upscale a world-class vehicle in his native city of Melbourne.
“In all my years running engineering and manufacturing projects around the world, I’ve never experienced the kind of commitment, enthusiasm and mutual respect that exists in the Savic team,” marvels Matt. “It’s an absolute joy being a part of this experience.”
They are heartening words for a man who’s led the development and commercialisation of an extensive collection of “planes, trains and automobiles” since he began his career as an Aeronautical Engineering Officer with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2005.
Like many innovative Aussies, Matt spent much of his early career in the UK, where over eight years he moved through a series of increasingly complex roles – from a two-man team designing the Bonneville Street Scrambler, to a group of four developing the Aston Martin Vantage GTE, to managing eight CAD engineers developing armoured patrol vehicles, and then 20 employees developing the prototype for Coventry’s battery-electric very light rail vehicle.
By the time he returned to Melbourne in early 2021, Matt had secured a role managing the engineering, quality and project management departments for a defence contractor in Victoria – a role he admits “cured me of any residual desire to work in the defence sector”. A year on, he switched to a product development role with a greater humanitarian focus: developing low-resource oxygen systems for rural African health facilities treating children with pneumonia.
This lifesaving work, based at the University of Melbourne, has fulfilled Matt’s passion to do something “really meaningful” with his unique combination of engineering, operations and management skills – and remains a vocation with which he divides his week with Savic Motorcycles.
Fortunately for us, the rest of his time is spent laying the ground for the production of the C-Series, where he’s taken the reins of everything from our production strategy and factory layout, to supplier deliveries, quality management, and long-term operations planning.
“For me, this is the most perfect way I can imagine to bring my experience in low-volume and prototype manufacturing to an Australian project that’s developing a hand-built, world-class machine,” says Matt. “I know we often compare our commercial aspirations to Ducati, but for me what we’re doing now is more similar to Bentley – with every vehicle precisely assembled by hand, with unique personal connections between the company and the bikes.
“Savic is delivering a premium style of automotive manufacturing that there really hasn’t been much of in Australia. It’s something very special, which will also contribute to long-term jobs growth and specialised skills development. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this amazing journey.”