Four thousand cars, a tiny number in automotive terms, is McLaren Automotive’s goal. Established in 2010, the marque is evidently still in its infancy. The F1—the fastest naturally aspirated production car to ever be built and one that still remains a global automotive supercar icon since its inception in 1992—remains a persuasive element at the heart of McLaren’s brand identity. Simply expressed, McLaren produces the finest cars—that they’re the fastest and most technologically advanced is a by-product of the company’s constant pursuit of excellence and commitment to innovation.
In 2009 when McLaren Automotive was officially announced, spun off from its F1 team and McLaren Technology Group, it was clearly on message. The group intended to build the most technologically advanced sports and supercars in the segment. “We’re now in a position where we have a variety of sportscars,” says David McIntyre, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, McLaren Automotive. The marque offers three different propositions with their recently introduced Sports Series typified by the 540C and 570S; the Super Series within which McLaren offers the 650SSpider and the limited-edition 675LT, a lighter, more focused version of the already sensational 650S; and the Ultimate Series, exemplified by the P1 hypercar and its track-only P1 GTR derivative.
For McLaren to have produced such a considered suite of cars in such a short period of time is nothing short of incredible, the marque has been competing and beating long-established rivals in the supercar market making its evolution even more impressive. “It’s all about enriching the palette, making a richer mix of models and cars with desirability. We will double our volume with the Sports Series, having sold 1600 cars in 2014, and we’ll increase that to 4000 cars at capacity. We’re confident we will meet that threshold,” says McIntyre, “the company has become a very sustainable long-term business, that can afford to invest in its future.”
It’s all about enriching the palette, making a richer mix of models and cars with desirability.
In this first phase the focus is on sports cars, Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer of McLaren Automotive explains, “we’re trying to build a brand, an iconic sports car company, cars embody a similar character. That is what builds credibility. I’m not saying in 50 years time we won’t have a broader product range, but in the next seven to eight years, it will be our niche and we believe there’s breadth to it.” Cars in the McLaren Sports Series will contribute to that vision; with McIntyre admitting that alongside the 540C and 570C will be the inevitable introduction of other derivatives such as an open topped offering and then consequentiality an opportunity to introduce a Longtail model in the future.
The 675LT, announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2015, exemplifies the strength of McLaren’s brand. Borrowing its name from the F1 GTR Longtail, or LT, the 675 uses the 650S as its basis and, in the same way the F1 GTR Longtail stripped weight, added focus and increased performance, so too does the 675LT. Just 500 cars will be built, each with 675hp, a longer body, enhanced aerodynamics and a weight reduction of 100kg—quite an incredible achievement given the already lightweight construction of the car that it draws inspiration from. Two thirds of the 675LT is new, McLaren’s chief test driver, Chris Goodwin, describing it as “a track car that can be used on the road, with performance that’s very close to the P1”. That all 500 were sold prior to anyone outside the marque having driven it, speaks to how well received McLaren’s products have become, particularly considering the AU$657,000 price tag that the car commands. “Customers want to buy these cars because they’re incredibly limited. The fact that the 670LT had sold out before its release shows that customers understand the vision. For us to simply make more would be careless. It might be considered beneficial in the short term, ultimately we need to retain a sense of mystique and exclusivity for the long term,” says McIntyre.
Photo courtesy of McLaren Automotive.
Cars like the LT demonstrate the breadth both Flewitt and McIntyre discuss—the introduction of the Sports Series providing the scope for diversification in both design and production. McLaren’s offering in this exceptionally competitive market has inevitably shaken-up the established rivals. “What’s essential is that our cars remain exclusive,” reflects Flewitt, who is happy to have demand outstrip supply. “In that band our cars will be the most sporting proposition,” adds Flewitt, “we will pick segments where we believe there’s a market, where we believe we can build the car that will lead in that particular segment, and where we can continue to build a strong business proposition”.
While McLaren Automotive, as a global brand, carries a great deal of gravitas thanks to its F1 racing pedigree, each market does represent its unique challenges. McIntyre’s expertise is within the Asia Pacific region—an area he’s championed for the last decade with a number of luxury carmakers. Since joining McLaren in 2014, the Asia Pacific has become a significant growth area for the marque following its entry into China in 2013. Sales have reached the point where the Asia Pacific marketplace is McLaren’s second most lucrative, and provides the impetus for the company to produce models specifically suited to the regions needs. The 625C, a slightly reduced performance and less extreme version of the 650S, has been designed to include features such as suspension better suited to the regions road conditions.
McIntyre notes that the Chinese market in particular sees an investment into the McLaren brand, “it is the considered purchase in the supercar segment, with customers converting to McLaren having previously owned one of our Italian rivals. People are buying into the technology as well as the dynamics and drive we offer”. In addition, the Japanese marketplace has always embraced McLaren thanks in no small part to the F1 team’s long and successful relationship with Honda. “There is a romance to the brand in Japan as a result of that success,” reflects McIntyre. McLaren has won the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans in a F1 GTR with Japanese driver Masanori Sekiya, joining Yannick Dalmas and JJ Lehto on the top step of the podium. Racing remains a core activity for McLaren, its 12C GT3 having won 51 international races and three championship titles and the 650S GT3 continuing that global success throughout the 2015 season.
Customers of McLaren’s road cars race them around the globe, mirroring the success found on the racetrack. McIntyre reiterating that it is McLaren’s technological prowess that makes it a clear leader in the market. It is hardly surprising given McLaren F1’s famously fastidious, clinical approach to racing—and winning. Whilst there were obvious strengths to celebrate, the model was not obscured from criticism that its design lacked emotional conviction and seemed detached in its execution. This was something that the 650S and 675LT voraciously challenged to make the LT a much more visceral, engaging car, that simultaneously retains the company’s incredible dynamic ability with a ride quality that’s unsurpassed in the sports and supercar marketplace.
And while the 570S and 540C might be bigger volume propositions, customers will still enjoy a curated McLaren experience and the opportunity to personalise their cars with standard configuration tools or immerse themselves in a far more bespoke offering by McLaren’s MSO (McLaren Special Operations) department.
Having solidified its position at the vanguard of the supercar market with its 650S, 675LT and Ultimate Series P1 and P1 GTR, it seems fitting for the marque to release its Sports Series models. That the 650S and 675LT are able to out-accelerate their F1 relation is of no significance to that car’s place in history as it continues to represent one of the most sought-after, technically sophisticated and expensive collector cars of all time. “People certainly understand, and appreciate that,” says McIntyre. “I think in some ways we were fortunate that we had such an iconic car that remained unsurpassed for over 20 years. We still retain that credibility and the lineage only adds to the prestige and quality of our current and future production line. Our customers are incredibly experienced, often having collected numerous supercars and sports cars from our competitors. By the time they approach McLaren they completely understand the value and technology proposition.”
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