British icon McLaren plans on launching a significant assault on Australia’s high-end sports car market over the next few years with a ramped-up dealer network to support the forthcoming, Porsche 911-rivalling Sports Series range.
That said, don’t expect the profitable company to dip any further down the model chain with an even more affordable model or chase anything resembling sizeable volume in the future. The Sports Series is about as ‘entry’ as entry gets for the UK marque, it appears.
Set for a global reveal around the middle of 2015 before rolling out to Australia in the following months, the Sports Series range will likely encompass a coupe, convertible and potentially an even more track-honed version of the hard-top.
Furthermore, it will pay stylistic homage to the manic P1 hypercar from 2013, meaning it should turn heads as fast as it handles a set of sweepers.
The Sport Series line-up will form a huge part in McLaren’s road car expansion too, and will easily double its global output from about 1600 cars per annum at present to more like 4000 by 2016/17.
It will also send its fledgling Australian operation into the next echelon.
To that point, the company this week launched its second Australian dealership, with its new site in Melbourne’s Southbank joining its existing operation in Sydney. Having two sites will give its 650S more traction, but there’s more to come, with new sites in the pipeline.
While the company may be struggling on the Formula One circuit, it appears the opposite is true for its separate road cars division.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the Melbourne dealer opening this week, McLaren executive director of global sales and marketing Jolyon Nash said the Sports Series would help the boutique, fiercely independent British car maker drastically build its presence both here and abroad.
We spoke in the shadow of Australia’s only licensed McLaren F1, on loan from the owner, as well as an uber-rare left-hand-drive P1 in canary yellow.
“We’ll certainly be announcing the car [Sports Series] and showing the car next year and it will go into production. We’re going into the sports car segment as opposed to the supercar segment,” he said, building on what previous teaser campaigns have told us.
Later, Nash added: “There will be certainly more than one body style, its pretty obvious I guess what it could be”, before saying many lessons imparted from the manic P1 — albeit perhaps not its use of electrification off the bat — would be applied.
“Every new product we engineer and develop there’s learning in it. A lot has come out of the P1, the visual design, and I think you’ll see much of the design language being carried over into the new models.
“I think it [the P1] defines what a McLaren should look like, we say it should be breathtaking design, beautiful yet functional, with a focus on aerodynamics. The P1’s shape is all there for a very good reason [cooling and aero, mostly].
“From a pricing point of view its a little bit difficult to look at it in Australia because some of the pricing is a bit upside down. But globally you’d be looking at pricing that is top end 911, R8, Vantage…”
This points to a figure somewhere around $300,000 to $350,000, as compared with the $441,500 650S. By “upside down”, Nash is referring to the discrepancies between segment rivals here compared with other markets.
That said — and following on from a previous company position — Nash seem cognisant also of the need to price reasonably without a whiff of gouging.
“Our customers, they’re not foolish, I mean we’re talking very successful individuals, mostly they’re very international, so they know if they’re travelling from Australia to Britain or the US, they can see what cars sell for, they understand that the ratios or relativity of prices one car to another, one brand to another, customers understand when positions aren’t quite right.”
Beyond this, Nash discussed what the Sports Series would mean for the brand and its plans beyond the new entry model.
“I think over the medium term we’re probably going to be more than doubling our production. We’re flexible and will build to demand, that’s how it has to be in the sector… we’ve got sufficient capacity,” he said.
That said, do not expect to see McLaren either slink further ‘downmarket’ — we use that term with trepidation — or seek to in any way match the volumes of even niche rivals such as Ferrari.
“I don’t think we would make… I can’t imagine McLaren would bring in a car in a segment below that [Sports Series]. I think we’re a super luxury brand and we think that's good positioning for us.
“McLaren will always be a very exclusive product, we have no intention to be anything volume, if we sell double the current number of cars we’re selling globally, in two to three years time, we’re very happy with that kind of number.
“It’s not our intention to sell 10,000 cars around the world every year, or 7000… that’s not McLaren.”