Five questions with Mike Flewitt, CEO of McLaren Automotive

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Judging what’s under the hood

What are the company’s business plans for Asia?
We’re represented all over the world by 80 dealers now. We’ve got markets that are up and markets that are down, and one that incites a lot of conversations  is China. We started in China in September 2013. We had a great launch and sold cars really well. But coming to the end of 2014, things changed for a whole variety of reasons, not just political and social changes but also financial, with uncertainty in currency and stock markets. But I still believe that fundamentally, there is a very good market in China. I can’t predict when it’s going to pick up, but I’m very confident that it will.

The supercar segment is a competitive space to be in, how do you differentiate yourself?
We are very focused on technology and on our products being authentic. We attract people who are enthusiasts, people who love driving and who understand the technology that goes into the car. It isn’t really a fashion purchase; it’s a purchase because people really buy into what we do. The key attraction should be the driving experience. Our cars are not ornaments. We do design them to look beautiful, but the idea of someone buying our car but never really driving it would disappoint me.

Some of your competitors are venturing into different segments in a bid to be more commercially viable. How do you balance passion with the commercial needs of the company?
To have a successful business, you’ve got to balance the financials. We are here for the long term. We are focusing on what we do best which is to make sports cars. I do genuinely believe we make the best drivers’ cars in the world, in the segments they are in. And that’s what we are going to stay very focused on. I’m not going to move the company into directions that may have a short term financial return, but is not a product line that’s consistent with our brand and with our customer base. In 10 years’ time, we should have built a reputation for what we do really well, and not just for different products and segments because that’s where the fashion is.

What will be the next big trend in the supercar space?
The trend has been to develop chassis dynamics, but I think the next big trend in 10 to 15 years is around the powertrain. The majority of the engines in this segment now are turbocharged, not all but a majority are. We were there very early with a low capacity of a 3.8-litre twin turbocharged engine which brings about great efficiency as well as dynamics. Quite famously, we were the first supercar to go into North America without incurring the Gas Guzzler Tax. When we launched the 12C, per brake horsepower, we were the cleanest engine in the world.

What’s your daily driver?
I love cars. I have a McLaren 650S which I don’t drive every day, but probably about a third of the time, and I have a BMW M5 which is a superb saloon which I drive the rest of the time. My wife drives a Range Rover, so I’m not against SUVs! I think the world thinks I hate SUVS, I don’t! I think it’s good for a purpose, but I like driving sports cars and I also have a couple of 1960s sports cars that I enjoy.

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Published 14th January 2016