By Samuel Ee
INTENSE interest in the new McLaren MP4-12C super sports car has filled the British manufacturer's order books for the next three years but that does not mean production will be ramped up.
"We are looking at sustainable production," explains Ian Gorsuch, regional director of McLaren Automotive. According to him, that would be 1,000 units per year next year, although that number may go up slightly depending on circumstances.
More importantly, Mr Gorsuch says: "We want to produce less cars than the competition."
Doing so will enable its dealers to enjoy bigger margins. The car's residual value will also be higher, while the cost of changing cars for the customer will be lower.
"The key is making the dealership profitable," he insists. "We will produce less cars but the dealers must have more cars than the competition because the long-term goal is profitability." This, in turn, will allow them to invest more in the brand.
"That is why we want to make the showroom cheaper to build," says Mr Gorsuch. "We would rather have them invest in stocking more parts."
He adds that a grand showroom may boost the manufacturer's ego but McLaren prefers its dealers to spend their money on customer service instead.
Over the last couple of years, McLaren Automotive has had to set up a dealer network from scratch. Today, it has 35 dealerships in 19 countries. A surprise is that China, the world's biggest car market, is not one of them at the moment.
But Mr Gorsuch says that McLaren is planning "not more than three dealerships in China" over the next five years as the carmaker expands its line-up to three models.
"We are launching in China in 2013 because we do not have enough cars now," he explains.
The MP4-12C is a mid-engined, two-seat sports car with a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 and unique carbon-fibre chassis.
McLaren says that its 592 hp road rocket is benchmarked against Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Bentley.
But since the last two are grand tourers with front engines, and Lamborghini appeals more to the "purist", that means the McLaren is pitted most closely against the Ferrari 458.
"But it is lighter, more powerful and more comfortable," says Mr Gorsuch. "The MP4-12C also costs less than the 458."
In Singapore, the 458 starts from $920,000 without COE.
As for the McLaren, it starts from $900,000 without COE.
Authorised dealer Wearnes Automotive has received 42 orders for the MP4-12C. The first customer is expected to get his car this December, with the rest likely to be delivered over 2012.
This article was first published in The Business Times.