Horiba acquire UK group Mira

A Japanese industrial group has swooped on Mira, the British automotive company that is a pivotal player in the future of driverless cars.

Horiba announced on Tuesday that it had acquired the former Motor Industry Research Association for an undisclosed sum.

Mira began life in 1945 as a government-funded test track operator and the Nuneaton-based company now operates one of the largest independent proving grounds in the world.

Its test facilities are used by global manufacturers for cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles.

Mira also tests defence equipment and appeared in an episode of the motoring series Top Gear.

It also has a vehicle engineering consultancy business and runs a technology park that counts Bosch, Continental and GKN as partners. Mira is also a partner in the UK’s Autodrive consortium, one of the groups carrying out tests of driverless cars under a £19m government scheme.

Mira, which is in the final phases of a six-year turnround plan, had for several years been hamstrung by the pension deficit from two defined benefit schemes. These outweighed the enterprise value of the company and threatened its long-term viability.

As part of the Horiba deal, issues with those schemes were resolved, partly through a formal administration process.

George Gillespie, Mira chief executive and a former Horiba employee, said the deal would allow the company to further its growth plans and invest in its facilities, including a technology park in the Midlands which it wants to turn into Europe’s biggest transportation research hub by 2022, creating 2,000 jobs.

Mira also wants to double its revenues from just under £50m last year, mainly through expanding into global markets. ‘Having a parent who is global will accelerate the globalisation of what we do,’ said George.

Horiba, meanwhile, has annual revenues of $1.2bn derived from a range of industrial activities, including automotive research and development and semiconductor manufacturing. The company has had a presence in the UK for more than 30 years.

The newly combined entity will be known as Horiba Mira. PwC and KPMG were advisers on the deal.