Executives at McLaren Automotive, veterans of the Formula One racing series, are betting that the economic downturn is over and that supercar enthusiasts are ready to buy.
This summer, the English company will try again to sell road cars when it offers its mid-engine MP4-12C supercar at 10 dealerships in North America.
The MP4-12C, priced at $231,400, including shipping, has a top speed of 205 mph and a 0-to-60 time of 3.2 seconds. The two-seater is built around a carbon fiber tub, a weight-saving technology McLaren introduced 30 years ago. Chassis, suspension, and braking systems are pulled straight from the racetrack.
Nine U.S. dealers and one Canadian dealer are signed up to start selling the MP4-12C this summer. McLaren expects to add dealers in 11 U.S. and two Canadian cities in the next year or so.
Sticking with sports cars
Tony Joseph, director of McLaren's North American region, admits there are large swaths of uncovered territory. At launch, customers in Denver or Salt Lake City will have to go to Los Angeles or Dallas for service. But he said the expansion of the dealer body should fill in those areas.
Joseph said McLaren plans derivatives of the MP4-12C, possibly a convertible, a higher-performance version, and a lower-priced unit.
With a complete lineup, McLaren hopes to sell 4,000 to 5,000 cars annually worldwide within the first few years. That would make its volume similar to that of Lamborghini and Aston Martin.
The first cars are being hand-built at the McLaren Technology Center in Woking, England, southwest of London. But McLaren's $65 million manufacturing facility near the tech center begins production next month. All vehicles sold in North America will come from the manufacturing facility production line, which was designed by Norman Foster, creator of the "egg" skyscraper that is London City Hall.
McLaren Automotive is a unit of McLaren Group, which includes the Formula One business. Executive Chairman Ron Dennis owns 25 percent of McLaren Automotive. Mumtalakat Holding Co. of Bahrain owns 50 percent and TAG Group of Luxembourg owns 25 percent.
This isn't McLaren's first attempt at selling a road car. In the mid-'90s, the company sold 107 copies of its $1 million F1 supercar, which now sell at auction for several times the original price. McLaren also was a technical contributor to several high-end Mercedes-Benz models.
Joseph said McLaren wants to take exotic-car customer service to a new level. With the F1, if a customer had a problem, the factory would fly engineers from England to the customer's location.
With the MP4-12C, McLaren will require dealers to have one unit of every part of the car in stock at all times. To ease the cost burden, the first set of parts will be sold to dealers at McLaren's cost.
(Source: Automotive News)