McLaren Prefers Exclusivity Over Volume and Profit, Won’t Follow the Trend of Its Competitors
Only time will tell if McLaren is as steadfast in the future as it is todayby Kirby Garlitos, on
Crossovers and SUVs have been hot button issues across boardrooms of exotic automakers all over the world. Some brands like Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce have given in to the craze. Bugatti has adopted a fence-hopping approach, straddling both sides with the ease of a gymnast. Then there are companies like Koenigsegg that have sworn off taking that plunge. The latter is a shrinking list, but Koenigsegg can take comfort knowing that it’s got company from McLaren.
Yes, the British supercar brand has no plans of developing and building an SUV because it doesn’t pass the cool factor for the brand. Granted, we’ve seen this song and dance number from automakers that have previously said they wouldn’t build SUVs only to do it anyway. McLaren sounds different, though, and while time will ultimately determine whether the brand’s position remains, it does look like McLaren’s portfolio will remain SUV-free in the near future.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this isn’t the first time that McLaren has made its intentions clear when it comes to crossovers and SUVs. As recently as February of this year, the British automaker drew a line in the sand that has yet to be washed away by the waves. McLaren design chief Mark Roberts made that point clear, saying that the company won’t stray away from its core identity as an automaker that delivers the “ultimate driving experience.” As useful and appealing as crossovers and SUVs are, they hardly count as vehicles that offer the same kind of driving experience as a full-fledged performance models like the McLaren 650S and the McLaren 720S.
|McLaren 650S||McLaren 720S|
|Engine||3.8-Liter V-8 Twin Turbo||4.0-litre twin-turbo V-8|
|Power||641 HP @ 7,250 RPM||710 HP @ 7,500 RPM|
|Torque||500 LB-FT @ 6,000 RPM||568 LB-FT @ 5,500 RPM|
|Transmission||Seven-Speed Dual Clutch||7 Speed SSG|
|0-100 km/h (0-62 mph)||3.0 seconds||2.8 seconds|
|0-200 km/h (0-124 mph)||8.4 seconds||7.8 seconds|
|Top Speed||207 mph||212 mph|
|Weight||3,148 Lbs||2,828 Lbs|
Seven months later, the company’s position hasn’t changed, and it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon. This time, it’s Darren Goddard, McLaren’s director of its Sports Series, who is speaking on behalf of the automaker’s interests. In a conversation with Car Sales Australia, Goddard reinforced McLaren’s longstanding position regarding crossovers and SUVs.
“There is nothing cool about an SUV,” Goddard said.
Strong words, sure, but at least the automaker hasn’t wavered from its earlier position, even if Goddard admitted that the British automaker is carefully watching the growing super SUV segment to see how successful models like the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, and Porsche Cayenne are. While it does seem counter-productive to watch a segment it has no plans of entering, McLaren is doing it, or at least Goddard says the company is doing it just to see what’s happening in it.
His point is that McLaren has no compelling reason to jump into the craze and that it wouldn’t do it for the sake of the bottom line. This is an interesting thought because Porsche began this trend when it launched the Cayenne back in 2003. The German automaker wanted to grow its business beyond sports cars and identified the SUV market as the ticket to greener pastures. It has worked hand-over-feet for Porsche as the Cayenne, which is now in its third generation, remains one of its best-selling models.
Other car brands have seen the success Porsche has had and have followed suit, even at the cost of going back on their previous word that they wouldn’t bother with SUVs. It’s not just Lamborghini, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce. Ferrari once said it wasn’t building SUVs. Now, the Purosangue is inching closer to completion. Aston Martin has also gotten in on the fun through its Lagonda sub-brand. Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Jaguar have also joined the bandwagon.
McLaren, though, remains steadfast in its belief that chasing volume goes against the core identity of the brand.
It’s not in McLaren’s nature to kowtow to the increasing demand for SUVs if it means turning it back on the philosophies that made it the company that it is today.
That’s all well and good, but the reality is that McLaren has other — and more practical — reasons for not building SUVs. It’s not just about chasing volume, but it’s also about the actual capacity to change it, something that Goddard admits McLaren is ill-equipped to do at this point in the automaker’s life. See, the automaker typically caps its production volume at around 6,000 vehicles per year. If the company wanted to go the SUV route, it would have to make huge investments on top of what already spends on research and development to make it happen. Take the carbon mono-cells that sit at the heart of most of its models. McLaren would have to develop a different structure to create enough space for an SUV. It probably would be able to do it if it wanted to, but the costs just don’t justify long-term gains that could come out of it.
Remember, McLaren is its own brand. It’s not part of a bigger auto conglomerate like Lamborghini and Bentley, two brands whose SUVs — the Urus and Bentayga, respectively — benefit from being part of the bigger Volkswagen Group family. Part of that benefit is being able to share the same platform, which is exactly the case with the Urus, Bentayga, as well as the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7, and Porsche Cayenne.
“Those [VW Group] SUVs are three models, in some cases four, all the same under skin but with different OEM badges on the front,” Goddard said.
Granted, Ferrari falls in the same category as McLaren. It’s not part of a bigger auto conglomerate — it used to be until it left the Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles umbrella a few years ago — the way Lamborghini, Bentley, and to a lesser extent, BMW-owned Rolls-Royce. This is where Ferrari and McLaren went on different paths. Maranello determined that the costs that came with the development of the Purosangue was worth the expected sales explosion it expects to generate once its SUV hits the market.
McLaren can do that, and if it wanted to, there’s no reason why it can’t follow that blueprint. But it doesn’t want to, which, in itself, is admirable.
Maybe McLaren’s top execs have a change of heart in the future. Maybe they don’t. This shows how tempting the crossover and SUV markets are these days. No amount of statements and/or flag-planting will stop the questions from being asked. For now, though, McLaren’s answer is “no.” It has no plans to build an SUV.
But ask again in a year. Maybe it’ll have a different answer then.
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 McLaren SUV.
Read our full review on the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider.
Read our full review on the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider by MSO.
Read our full review on the 2018 McLaren 720S.
Read our full review on the 2018 McLaren 720S Velocity.
Read our full review on the 2015 McLaren 650S.
Source: Car Sales