THEY SAY IN­TER­VIEW Mike Fle­witt, CEO, Mclaren Au­to­mo­tive

CEO, MCLAREN AU­TO­MO­TIVE

Motor Trend (USA) - - Contents - Alisa Prid­dle

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.

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