McLaren struck gold making supercars for regular drivers

Though it’s been offering production vehicles for five years, 2016 was the year McLaren really dominated the supercar game.   

As multiple automakers were reporting record numbers last week, small producer McLaren Automotive reported the most striking gains of the lot, with global sales up 99.3 percent year- over-year, and North American sales surpassing 1,000 cars for the first time ever in the brand’s five-year history, an increase of 106 percent since 2015. 

The brand also announced its third consecutive year of profitability, growth across all regions worldwide, and the production milestone of its 10,000th car.

“We’d planned it to be a year of considerable growth, but it’s surpassed even our own optimistic expectations,” said Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer of McLaren. Total sales hit 3,286 cars in 2016, up from 1,654 cars in 2015.

Bruce McLaren founded his eponymous company in 1963, and the team won its first Grand Prix in 1968, but it was the lightweight, strong carbon chassis the brand introduced with the 1981 McLaren MP4/1 that solidified its legendary status in the racing world and has since been used in its cars. After several mergers and re-brandings, McLaren Automotive released its first production car, the 12C, in 2011. The 12C Spider came in 2012, and the P1 debuted in 2013, followed by Sports, Super, and Ultimate Series cars.

The success is due largely to the introduction of the McLaren Sport Series, a family of vehicles that includes the 540C, 570S, and the USD198,950 570GT it unveiled earlier this year. Each vehicle is aimed at buyers who want a supercar they can feel comfortable driving daily, rather than on weekends at the track. The cars have improved fuel efficiency, such creature comforts as leather and parking cameras, and more forgiving suspensions, with higher ground clearance and even the ability to temporarily lift the front end of the car.

McLaren’s rise was enabled by the launch of a second shift of operations (more workers, more hours open) last year at the McLaren Production Centre in Woking, England, which has allowed it to pump out more cars quicker.

“We are looking for increases in the next couple of years, and then our sales will stabilize,” McLaren’s head of North America, Tony Joseph, said at the Bloomberg offices in New York. The ultimate goal is to see 5,000 cars produced annually.

Joseph said the brand will also devote more than £1 billion ($1.24 billion) to research and development over the next six years and will debut 15 all-new cars or derivatives of existing cars. Half those 15 new models, which McLaren enumerated in its “Track22” (as in the year 2022) business plan, will feature hybrid technology. One will be a fully electric concept car meant to test the feasibility of an electric McLaren — a technology in which such other racing-based automakers as Ferrari and Lamborghini have also dabbled.

McLaren will show the first of the 15 at the Geneva Motor Show in March; this will be a second-generation Super Series car internally codenamed P14. Another of the group, a so-called Hyper-GT code-named BP23, will emerge in a year or two. It is part of McLaren’s Ultimate Series produced by a special operations department within the brand. BP23 will have a hybrid power train and a three-seat layout (with the driver situated in the center of the car), like those found in Formula 1. (Though its first production car hit showrooms in 2011, McLaren has made elite racing cars since the 1960s.) Deliveries of BP23 will start in early 2019. All of the 106 limited-run units have already sold.

What McLaren doesn’t include in its ambitious plan is talk of an SUV, no matter how popular they are with consumers.

“What we have done well and what we continue to want to do is build the iconic sports car,” Joseph said. “At this point, we don’t see us doing a luxury SUV.” Hannah Elliott, Bloomberg

Categories Business