THEY SAY INTERVIEW Mike Flewitt, CEO, Mclaren Automotive
CEO, MCLAREN AUTOMOTIVE
Mclaren, founded in 1963, was a motorsport company until 2011, when it launched its first mass-produced car, the MP4-12C. (We’ll refer to the F1 supercar of the ’90s as more of a bespoke vanity project.) Under CEO Mike Flewitt—who spent much of his career at Ford and had stints at Rolls-royce, Bentley, and others before joining Mclaren in 2012—the company has a clear product and business plan. It has gone from its first somewhat muddled launch to strong products, three years of profits, continued growth, and a sense of stability with sales in 30 markets.
We can’t build the same excitement, the same emotional connection, to an electric sports car.ó On why a pure electric vehicle is not for Mclaren
You are still working on your Track 22 business plan? The plan outlined where we were going over the next seven years. The world needed to know what Mclaren is doing. Each new car is a surprise because we haven’t got this history behind us. We said we would launch 15 new cars by 2022; it was called Track 22 because initially it went from 2015 to 2022.
Is Senna GTR one of the 15 cars?
No, not the GTR, but we count a spider variant, so when we announced the 570S Spider last year, that was the second car. The 720S was the first. Senna is the third.
Is there room for 15 supercars in your portfolio? We’re going to sell about 4,000 cars [per year]. Our niche is supercars. Within that niche we sell on price. We go from [about $200,000 to $2.8 million]. And we go from GT cars to track or even race cars, from 570GT to Senna track car. The other factor is we go for quite short life cycles because the technology is constantly evolving, and we always want to produce the best.
What is your life cycle? Four to 4.5 years. And we don’t do a refresh. There is no midcycle action, second gen, or face-lift. It’s a new car, which allows us to make a step. The 720S that replaces the 650S, it’s a hugely successful step. You need to keep fresh, competitive products in this market because no one needs to buy these. If someone produces a better, more appealing product, that’s where the customer is going to go.
You want to get more into hybridization? The world is inevitably going that way. We produced the P1, which was the first hybrid supercar to come to market, which was successful. We’ve announced the BP23, a road car, a hyper GT that will also be a hybrid. By 2022 half our cars will be hybrid. There will be different levels of electrification. The one that works less for us is pure electric. We have an electric mule, a demonstrator, that we are working with to understand [the technology], but we can’t build the same excitement, the same emotional connection, to an electric sports car that we can to one with an internal combustion engine or a hybridized internal combustion engine. So EV is further away for us.
It’s not in the seven-year plan?
It’s not in the seven-year plan. No. But hybridization certainly is.
The plant in Woking, U.K., has capacity for about 5,000 cars. This year we will do just over 4,000 cars in Woking, but we’ve built a factory in Sheffield to build our carbon-fiber structures. Production starts in late 2019. Currently we design them, but they come from a supplier. We want to take control of that technology, bring it back in-house. We can evolve it the way we want to, get cost savings by manufacturing ourselves, and we protect intellectual property because we have quite a unique carbon-fiber structure to our cars that allows us to produce lighter cars—stiffer and very safe.
Do you think you will always have handbuilt vehicles? Yes. Not because I have any problem with robots or automation. There may be small levels of automation, but we need huge flexibility because we have quite a variety of models, and then our customers bespoke their cars to an unprecedented level.
How did you decide who gets the 75 Senna GTRS? We try to give priority to the customers who have been loyal to us. Little bit of first come, first served. Those who come to our events and want to buy a car to go to more events get priority. The hardest thing is having to say no, they’re sold out. We already sold out the 500 regular Sennas in about two months, before anybody knew what it was called or what it looked like. And the GTR, I’d be surprised if it was not sold out in a couple days. That’s a huge compliment that people have that confidence in the brand.