Honda website
Honda website

NOVEMBER 26, 2002

Who is Tony Purnell?

Tony Purnell has kept such a low profile in recent years that the boss of PI Research often has his name spelled wrong. In fact it is Tony Purnell, rather than Parnell, and he founded PI Research in 1987.

Purnell studied at Manchester University before winning a Kennedy Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980. Although training as a mechanical engineer MIT insisted that Purnell study business at the Sloan School, which turned out to be important when he returned to Britain to study further at Cambridge University in England. Although he had planned to become an academic he decided to set up his own consultancy business in electronics to earn a little extra money. PI Research was established in 1987 and grew quickly. Its first product was a wind tunnel instrumentation and control system which helped Lola Cars to develop its successful Indycar at the time. This was followed by a data logger system for racing cars in 1988 and the company's first major automotive deal in 1990 when Detroit Diesel commissioned a diesel engine management system. The following year Mazda won the Le Mans 24 Hours using PI data systems. This led to the formation of an automotive division called Pi Technology, which was established in 1991.

The company was sold to Ford in 1999 for an undisclosed sum but Purnell remained in charge. The company employs around 300 people in Cambridge and at its headquarters in Indiana in the United States.