McLaren Automotive has been exhibiting at the Geneva Motor Show for the seven years. I recall the first pavilion – a modest stand on the top deck alongside the design consultants and tuners. This year, this young British maker of exclusive performance cars occupied an impressive spot on the main landing alongside Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin.
The full model lineup were on display here as the company used the occasion to announce a completely new model, a McLaren grand tourer. Although very little was visually revealed on the press day other than this camouflage car, it will sit separately to the current Sports, Super and Ultimate Series. What’s more, when it is fully shown in May, the grand tourer will share its proportions with the exotic, almost deco-styled Speedtail – a car created to honor the original McLaren F1. I caught up with the chief executive officer Mike Flewitt to discover more about the grand tourer and to find out how he sees McLaren evolving in the coming years.
Nargess Banks: McLaren has pioneered a visual language anchored around carbon fiber – and it will be interesting to see how the team interprets a grand tourer. What can you reveal about this car?
Mike Flewitt: It is a car designed for distance and one that will also provide the comfort and space expected of a grand tourer, but with a level of agility never experienced before in this segment. It will also be the lightest of grand tourers and, by having the best power-to-weight ratio, I promise it will be one of the quickest.
NB: Tell me about the design.
MF: With our motorsport and Formula One heritage, the grand tourer is a little less intuitive than our track cars. The whole design language is different with a grand tourer. It is such an evocative shape that takes me back to the cars I loved from the 60s. Ours will be a grand tourer with a sporty edge. It will be the best driver’s car but remain a luxury grand tourer. We sell cars emotionally to people and I am sure the grand tourer will add to that. Wait until you see the car properly in a couple of months. It is beautiful!
NB: Was a grand tourer always in the product plan?
MF: It wasn’t when we started the company in 2011, but plans evolve. When we did the 570S we also made a GT derivative with a fastback body style. We loved this car and the feedback from customers was that they love to see us do a grand tourer for it is more comfortable, luxurious and usable. Our cars are track focused and raw – so it makes sense to add a product in the other direction. Funnily everyone always asks if we are planning an SUV – and no we are not – but never a grand tourer which to me feels like a much more natural evolution.
NB: Who will drive this new car and how many are planned?
MF: We see a great number of our grand tourer customers to be new to the brand – people for whom our cars are possibly a bit too extreme. We will build around 500 cars this year and we will see what the demand is. We are limited to making 5,000 cars a year, that is 20 cars a day because of our production capacity (at the center in Woking, UK). By 2024, we intend to increase this and the customer will define the product mix and volume.
NB: The US is your strongest market with some 40% of buyers coming from the east and west coasts of the country. Surely a grand tourer will add to the allure – especially on the open roads of California.
MF: The BMW i8 is a huge success in California as it fits their roads and lifestyles, so yes we see our new car helping build brand awareness in the US.
NB: You appear to be successfully navigating the Track 2025 plan you have set to produce 18 new models and derivatives by 2024 to include a range of hybrid-electric drivetrains. Do you have plans for a pure electric performance McLaren – much like some of the inspired electric supercars we see on the halls of Geneva this year?
MF: In those 18 cars, there isn’t a full electric vehicle. Having said that, we do believe electric is where the market will go. I don’t know if it will be a 100% in the supercar world which relies on customer demand, but certainly the bulk of the industry will go towards this. We have a mule car, an old 12C re-engineered with battery power to help us understand the technology. We are talking with partners too.
NB: What are the challenges for a McLaren electric car, after all your cars are all about weight reduction and ultimate aerodynamics?
MF: Electric vehicles…
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