Mainland drives supercar maker

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 March, 2012, 12:00am


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Supercar fans on the mainland will be able to get up close to one of the world's fastest and most exclusive cars after Formula One carmaker McLaren opens its first dealership in China next year.

However, the British sports carmaker said it first had to boost production capacity before it can tap the world's biggest car market to avoid delays for Hong Kong buyers waiting of its latest model, the MP4-12C, the first car wholly built by the company since the legendary F1 was unveiled in 1992.

'We will have cars in China early next year but we will have to make sure to ramp up production before that,' said Ian Gorsuch, regional director for Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. 'Because if I was a Hong Kong buyer I would be very unhappy if the allocation for Hong Kong is being put to China.'

The 60 MP4-12C cars earmarked for Hong Kong buyers for the next two years have already been bought, and customers will have to wait up to 18 months for delivery.

That compares with about 12 months' delivery time for rivals Ferrari and Lamborghini.

While McLaren's new production centre in Britain can produce about 1,000 MP4-12Cs every year, Gorsuch said annual capacity could be increased to about 1,500. He also expected delivery time would be shortened to slightly more than a year by the middle of this year.

'We are still in the process of finding dealership partners in China but from what we see now the right volumes for China may be around 150 cars for a full-year production, and around 60 for Hong Kong.'

The estimate seems modest compared to sales by Lamborghini and Ferrari of more than 340 sports cars on the mainland last year. Lamborghini has projected that China will become its biggest market this year.

Backed by an explosion of new money and young millionaires on the mainland, established luxury car manufacturers such as Aston Martin said sales more than doubled last year despite a slowing passenger car market.

McLaren said it would open two to three dealerships in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou next year, and would develop sales centres in Hangzhou and Chengdu, although Gorsuch said there would be no more than six dealerships.

Goodwood Motor, part of Sime Darby, which is the McLaren dealership in Hong Kong, will be considered, he said.

The small carmaker has been attracted by the region's fast-expanding car market, since the opening of its Asian office in Singapore, McLaren will also open its first showroom in Hong Kong today, and another one in Australia next week.

The MP4-12C, a two-seat coupe launched last year with a maximum speed of 322 km/h, is powered by a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine allowing acceleration from zero to 100 km/h in 3.3 seconds. Gorsuch said 99 per cent of spare parts for the car will be available to buyers as their cars are delivered, reducing lengthy waits in case of accidents or break-downs.

The MP4-12C will be on sale in Hong Kong for HK$3.9 million.

Gorsuch said the car had not yet been priced for China but was likely to be cheaper that the Ferrari 458 which costs 3.88 million yuan (HK$4.76 million).