‘Cheap’ racer tar­gets Porsche

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

McLAREN, the grand prix pow­er­house, is aim­ing at Porsche as it cuts the start­ing price for its su­per­cars in Aus­tralia. A new McLaren called the 570S has just been pre­viewed at $408,000 as a com­peti­tor for the 911 Turbo S. An even cheaper new model, the $350,000 540C, will be pitched against the 911 Turbo. McLaren is also about to open a new Aus­tralian deal­er­ship on the Gold Coast. The new­com­ers are part of a three-tier strat­egy by which the Bri­tish brand aims to dou­ble its sales within 18 months thanks to the latest Sport se­ries cars. The other tiers are Ul­ti­mate and Su­per. It’s trum­pet­ing the sell­out suc­cess of its $4 mil­lion P1 GTR, a track-only ver­sion of its P1 hy­brid su­per­star, and the latest 575LT. The Sports mod­els — which still sprint to 100km/h in about 3.0 sec­onds and go be­yond 300km/h — have the break­through po­ten­tial. “These are the cars that will more than dou­ble our cur­rent vol­ume,” says McLaren Automotive global sales and mar­ket­ing chief Jolyon Nash. “In price point, they are po­si­tioned against 911 turbo and Turbo S. But in terms of char­ac­ter, they are as sim­i­lar as a Porsche 918 and our P1.” McLaren strug­gled at first, he con­cedes, be­cause its orig­i­nal road car, the MP4 12C, did not have as much char­ac­ter as the ri­val Fer­rari 458 Italia. “We’ve learnt through cus­tomer feed­back that they wanted more of a vis­ceral feel to the cars. So, yes, our cars have be­come more emo­tive and a lit­tle more in­volv­ing. “The thing we fo­cus on do­ing is giv­ing (buy­ers) the McLaren ex­pe­ri­ence. Once you’ve driven the car, if you’re re­ally in the mar­ket, then there is a pretty good chance you will buy it.” McLaren Automotive posted its sec­ond year of profit af­ter its startup in 2011. In the cur­rent year the in­vest­ment in fu­ture mod­els — the “lifeblood” of the mar­que, as Nash de­scribes it — will ex­ceed $250 mil­lion. Nash says pro­duc­tion of the 570S and 540C (the names re­flect­ing the horse­power of their turbo 3.8-litre V8s, re­spec­tively 420kW and 397kW) will be­gin in Oc­to­ber. Aus­tralian de­liv­er­ies should start be­fore the end of the year. “We are still a very young com­pany. We re­ally have to launch our Sports se­ries and en­sure it is prop­erly en­trenched in the mar­ket,” Nash says. “The in­ten­tion is to bring a new au­di­ence of cus­tomers to McLaren. That’s re­ally where our fo­cus is go­ing to be.” The mid-en­gined new­com­ers have car­bon­fi­bre chas­sis and race-style con­struc­tion, with su­pe­rior cabin trim and am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for cus­tomis­ing. Nash says the or­der bank “takes us well into next year” but pro­duc­tion will be no higher than 3000 ve­hi­cles. There are no plans for an SUV, as other pres­tige sports makes have done. “Our in­ten­tion is al­ways to be ex­clu­sive,” he says. “We don’t plan to sell more than 4000 cars in a year, at the most. Of those, 2500 will be Sports se­ries and 1400 or 1500 will be oth­ers.”

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