Unassuming, slightly drab Southall, in west London, seems an unlikely setting for a motoring revolution. But Keith Johnston, chief executive of Southall-based GoinGreen, is adamant his environmentally friendly cars will take the car industry by storm. “We want to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue,” he says. “We’d like to start something big.”
You’d struggle to think of a more innovative business than GoinGreen. The business sells electric-powered cars over the internet. Sales are focussed in London where such vehicles are exempt from the capital’s congestion charge, are free to park and do not incur road tax.
Johnston is convinced that G-Wiz, the GoinGreen car, will send tremors through the motoring industry. With the inexpensive cars easily assembled in India before being shipped to the UK, sales have rocketed among urban drivers.
“On one level GoinGreen is a new car company, on another it’s trying to change the way a whole generation of people think and behave in regard to personal mobility,” explains Johnston. “The car industry has been around for a long time and in may ways it’s a bit of a dinosaur.
“There are too many players chasing too few customers and there are too many links in the supply chain trying to make a profit out of it. What we’ve done is re-engineer that – we’re a low-cost operation selling inexpensive products, which is different for the industry.”
GoinGreen’s approach was recognised at the 2004 Startups Awards, where the business won the overall title and £5,000 prize money. It was an important landmark in GoinGreen’s short history.
“We celebrated in the evening but the cheque went straight into the bank account,” Johnston says. “We have had lots of encouraging feedback about the award, any opportunity we have to shout about our achievements is good for the business.”
Johnston is a comparative latecomer to GoinGreen, having taken over from co-founder Steve Cain last year. A former advertising executive, Johnston entrepreneurial appetite was whetted by the GoinGreen concept.
“GoinGreen interested me because it gave me the chance to use my sales and marketing skills and I just love the idea of the business having an environmental benefit,” he explains. “I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. This is the next step in my entrepreneurial career. This is, by far, the biggest challenge I’ve taken on though.”
Johnston is bullish about what the future holds for his business. Electric cars are here to stay, he insists.
”Change can happen quite quickly and radically,” he stresses. “If you look at the airline industry, EasyJet and Ryanair changed air travel forever. I think this is something that can catch on very quickly and it will be very difficult for competitors to operate at a lower cost than us, so we will always be competitive on price.
“If we can provide the right kind of product that people want, then I think we could have a very dramatic effect on the industry, not just in this country, but around the world.”