McLaren Automotive Will Invest $1.5 Billion In New Products

McLaren Automotive has a problem. There just aren’t enough super wealthy customers out there who can drop a million dollars or more on a 2 seat supercar to troll the streets of Monaco. What’s a poor car company to do? Make cars that cost less, of course, so the merely wealthy can snap them up and troll the streets of Boston, Shanghai, and other less exotic locations.

McLaren 570GT at Geneva
Sir Jackie Stewart stands in front of a McLaren 570GT at the Geneva auto show.

McLaren says it has put together a 6 year plan called Track22. It calls for investing $1.5 billion to develop 15 new or redesigned cars, all of them 2 seat sports cars. A quarter of that money is earmarked for research and development. The company says half of the new cars will be hybrids. McLaren engineers will also be working on an all electric powertrain to be used in an upcoming sub-brand known as the Ultimate Series. “This business plan confirms that McLaren Automotive will remain proudly and fiercely independent by continuing to build the world’s finest two-seater sports and supercars.”

McLaren introduced its new 570GT in Geneva this week. Unlike the McLaren P1, which cost more than $1,500,000, the 570GT can be had for as little as $200,000. Rather than being a racing machine,  Mike Flewitt, CEO of McLaren Autotive, tells BBC News the car is designed to give a more relaxed drive. It has been designed with a more comfortable suspension and has more luggage capacity. “We see this [car] as being very easy to drive on a day-to-day basis,” Mr Flewitt said.

The company is looking to add 500 employees to its current workforce of 1,500. Many of those new jobs are for skilled engineers. With companies like Tesla, Apple, Faraday Future and others competing for talent, Flewitt acknowledges it is getting harder to attract top candidates. “Luckily, McLaren is an attractive brand to come and work for.” The company has already added a second shift at its production facility in Woking, England.

“Our next hybrid vehicle will launch towards the latter part of our six year plan, and we will see at least 50 percent featuring hybrid technology by 2022. Hybridization has obvious CO2 and fuel consumption advantages but for us, it is all about delivering the performance and enjoyment of a McLaren. But we won’t stop there. Our engineers have even started work on a one-off prototype to evaluate the possible benefits of a fully-electric powertrain in an Ultimate Series car,” Flewitt says.

McLaren exports more than 90% of its cars, many of them to China. In Europe, its average customer is 40 years old or more. In China, the average age of its customers is 20 something. Sales were off in China last year, as that country has seen a marked slowdown in its torrid pace of economic growth. “We sell cars into 30 markets, with 82 dealerships. As one market comes down – China has dropped this year and last year – other markets strengthen,” he said. “You worry about [the health of the world economy] all the time. The strategy we took was to make sure we had broad distribution.”

McLaren would dearly love to be thought of as being in the same league as Ferrari — a purveyor of fine, very expensive motorcars but also a brand with heft in the upper echelons of global society. It hopes to increase sales from around 1,500 cars a year today to over 5,000 a year by the year 2020. It’s certainly putting its money where its mouth is.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.