James Dyson: Vacuum cleaner king turns to electric cars
By Jean-Baptiste OUBRIER
Britain’s James Dyson, who announced a plan to develop electric cars on Tuesday, is the self-styled king of vacuum cleaners who revolutionized the household appliance and became a global brand.
The astonishing success of his bagless cyclone vacuum cleaners which he invented in the late 1970s have made him one of Britain’s best-known businessmen and drawn comparisons with Apple’s Steve Jobs.
The 70-year-old billionaire — born in the coastal town of Cromer in Norfolk in eastern England — is also a vocal Brexit supporter and threw his weight behind leaving the European Union in last year’s shock referendum.
Dyson was born in 1947 and studied at the Royal College of Art in London, where he specialized in interior design and furniture in the late 1960s.
After a brief stint at engineering firm Rotork, he decided to establish his own company in 1974.
His lightbulb moment came in 1978 when he became frustrated at the poor performance of his vacuum cleaner when renovating his country house.
Dyson took the appliance apart and discovered a vacuum bag that was clogged with dust, hurting its suction power.
Fast forward five years, and, after more than five thousand failed protoypes, the so-called “dual cyclone” bagless Dyson vacuum cleaner was born.
Dyson Group now employs 6,000 people with £1.4 billion in annual turnover and a presence in 65 countries across the world.
The company holds more than 10,000 patents and its products also include bladeless fans, washing machines and hairdryers.
He announced his latest venture on Tuesday saying he wanted to tackle Britain’s air pollution crisis and would invest £2.0 billion (2.3 billion euro, $2.7 billion) in developing the car and battery.
“The team is already over 400 strong, and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing £2 billion on this endeavour,” he said.
Referring to air pollution, he added: “It is a problem that others are ignoring.”
Dyson is also one of Britain’s biggest landowners, with around 33,000 acres (13,354 hectares), according to a recent interview with the Spectator magazine.
– ‘Failure is exciting’ –
“I really embrace failure, you learn nothing by a success but failure is exciting because something has gone wrong and you’ve had a real visceral experience, so I like it and you learn from it,” he told BBC Radio in a recent interview.
“What happens is you work on a problem and you stumble across a solution. You can never calculate it or sit at a desk and work out a solution.
“You have to build a prototype and watch it fail — and then overcome the failure,” added Dyson, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 for his services to business.
More recently, the inventor threw his weight behind Brexit, arguing that EU exit would not impact the nation’s trading position.
“So if we leave the EU no one will trade with us? Cobblers,” he said ahead of the June 2016 referendum.
He added: “We will create more wealth and more jobs by being outside the EU. We will be in control of our destiny.
“And control, I think, is the most important thing in life and business.”
Dyson, who owns 100 percent of his company, is the 414th richest person in the world and the 13th richest in Britain, according to Forbes’ rich list real-time ranking.
His total fortune is estimated at $4.2 billion (3.5 billion euros).