F1 Racing (UK) - - PRO - BEN AN­DER­SON

2013 Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Mclaren Au­to­mo­tive 2012 Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer of Mclaren Au­to­mo­tive 2011 Global Vice Pres­i­dent of Ford 2010 Man­u­fac­tur­ing Di­rec­tor of Ford Europe 2005 Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Ford Otosan 2003 Qual­ity di­rec­tor for Ford Europe 1998 Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Au­tonova, a joint ven­ture be­tween Volvo and TWR 1995 Pro­duc­tion Di­rec­tor for Rolls-royce and Bent­ley 1983 Pro­duc­tion Op­er­a­tor, Fore­man, Se­nior Fore­man, Su­per­in­ten­dent, Shift Man­ager, Area Man­ager for Ford Mo­tor Com­pany in Hale­wood, Liver­pool F1 Rac­ing: Mclaren have been build­ing road cars on and off for a long time, but have got much more se­ri­ous since you joined…

Mike Fle­witt: Back in Gor­don Mur­ray’s days it was a depart­ment of the race team. It only stopped be­ing that at the end of 2010, when it be­came an in­de­pen­dent com­pany. But it still had to stand on its own two feet. When I came in it was very much the ju­nior part­ner to rac­ing. It has de­vel­oped be­cause we de­vel­oped our own busi­ness plan in 2013, and grew Au­to­mo­tive in par­al­lel with the rac­ing com­pany.

F1R: How much has the com­pany grown in that time?

MF: We’ve gone from, in 2011, one car – the MP4-12C Coupé – and be­low 600 units, to this year over 4,500 units, and a range of mod­els. We’ve grown from 800 peo­ple to about 2,300. The F1 team is now only about 700. We’ll add an­other cou­ple of hun­dred peo­ple and will round out at 5,000 cars a year, fo­cus­ing on ex­clu­siv­ity rather than chas­ing vol­ume. Fun­da­men­tally, we’re not about the tech­nol­ogy for its own sake, we’re about the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

F1R: Does Au­to­mo­tive bring ex­tra ca­chet for the F1 team?

MF: Ab­so­lutely. When Zak [Brown] and the team go out rep­re­sent­ing the F1 team, Au­to­mo­tive is a sig­nif­i­cant asset. I don’t think any­one buys our cars be­cause of F1. They might have heard of us be­cause they’ve heard of Mclaren in F1, but they choose us be­cause of the car. Our cars are the best in their seg­ment, and when cus­tomers buy our cars they stay loyal. The fact this isn’t a great time in F1 isn’t hurt­ing us, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be won­der­ful when we start win­ning again. What you want is all the com­pa­nies within Mclaren en­hanc­ing the brand and cred­i­bil­ity. I’m look­ing for­ward to the day we’re not 17th and 18th.

F1R: You race your­self, don’t you?

MF: I mainly race his­torics: a cou­ple of Lo­tuses – a 1961 Lo­tus Elite and a ’63 Lo­tus Elan. I’ve also got an F2 Mclaren – the ex-piers Courage car that he won the last race of the Tas­man Se­ries in ’67-68. It’s a gor­geous car to look at, lovely to drive, but you are con­stantly on edge… I could do with hav­ing a bit more of my hero Jim Clark’s tal­ent.

F1R: Does the suc­cess of the road car di­vi­sion cre­ate in­ter­nal ten­sion while the race team is strug­gling – es­pe­cially now you’re re­spon­si­ble for 80-85 per cent of to­tal rev­enue?

MF: It doesn’t cre­ate ten­sion, or cer­tainly not ten­sion I’m aware of. I think we’re all just gen­er­ally sup­port­ive of each other. The foun­da­tion of the au­to­mo­tive com­pany was funded out of the money Ron [Den­nis] and the team earned in F1, so we wouldn’t ex­ist if it wasn’t for F1. I think that is such re­cent history that we just feel co-re­liant. We don’t look at them and think ‘you silly bug­gers aren’t do­ing well now!’ Quite the op­po­site – it’s ‘what can we do to help?’

F1R: And your suc­cess will surely help the F1 team in terms of Group rev­enue?

MF: Ab­so­lutely. We are a group, so if we are start­ing to gen­er­ate cash they can use to de­velop to be­come more com­pet­i­tive then that’s a great po­si­tion to be in. There re­ally isn’t ri­valry. Ev­ery Mon­day af­ter­noon Zak, my­self, Jonathan Neale and two of the share­hold­ers have a very in­for­mal call. I have break­fast with Zak ev­ery week. We had a cus­tomer evening for Speed­tail – our new top-end prod­uct – and Zak was there with his wife host­ing one of the ta­bles for me. We’re all in it to­gether.

F1R: How do you an­swer crit­ics who say the au­to­mo­tive side is a dis­trac­tion from the F1 team?

MF: I un­der­stand how the ex­ter­nal per­cep­tion could be that, but they are fun­da­men­tally sep­a­rate. We don’t con­sume any re­source from F1 at all. Ar­guably, we help them fi­nan­cially. We don’t take any of their peo­ple, con­sume or di­lute, in any sense at all. It’s re­ally far-fetched, that: if any­one crit­i­cises a Mercedes road ve­hi­cle it’s never be­cause they are do­ing so well in F1. I don’t read it about Red Bull, where Adrian Newey is try­ing to de­sign an As­ton Martin road car…

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