2014 GENEVA AUTO SHOW

McLaren will add pricier sibling to $240,000 12C supercar

The 650s will debut at the Geneva auto show next month.
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HONG KONG (Bloomberg) -- McLaren Automotive will introduce its fourth supercar as the company seeks to increase pressure on rivals Ferrari and Lamborghini and triple sales within two to three years.

The 650s, which will debut at the Geneva auto show next month, will have more power, accelerate faster and be priced "a sensible distance" above the MP4-12C, Operations Director Alan Foster said in an interview in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

McLaren is holding private viewings before Geneva and deliveries will begin next month, Asia Pacific Regional Director Mirko Bordiga said.

The 650s is part of CEO Mike Flewitt's plan to introduce a new McLaren every year in a bid to triple sales within the next few years.

The maker of the $1 million P1 is also developing cheaper vehicles that could compete against cars from Porsche.

"It's somewhat surprising they are slotting a car above the MP4-12C before introducing something a little more obtainable," said Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst for Bloomberg Industries. "There is enough brand cache for a well-executed McLaren to compete with the [Audi] R8 and [Porsche 911] GT3."

The company will probably introduce a model to compete in the segment that includes the R8 or the Porsche 911 GT3 within a couple of years, Foster said. McLaren is interested in making a more general-purpose vehicle based around a mid-engine sports car, he said.

Cheaper car

"The idea is that we'll bring a new car into position every 12 months," said Foster. "There are a number of degrees of segmentation until you get down to about 100,000 pounds sterling ($167,000). We're not in there yet, but it's certainly one that's of interest to us."

McLaren expects to sell about 1,500 vehicles this year, similar to 2013, and plans for deliveries to reach 4,500 spread across a range of models in two to three years, Foster said. By comparison, Ferrari sold 6,922 vehicles and Lamborghini deliveries reached 2,121 in 2013.

Woking, England-based McLaren began selling cars for retail buyers in 2011, starting with the MP4-12C road car, which sells for about $240,000 and above, followed by the convertible MP4-12C spider and its top-of-the line P1.

Slowing China

McLaren established its first dealerships in mainland China, the world's largest car market, last year and sees the country growing to represent about 10 percent of global sales, Bordiga said. The company made its entry amid a government campaign against corruption and extravagance that's undermined demand for high-end products.

Luxury spending in the nation last year rose at the slowest pace since at least 2000, according to Bain & Co., as demand for items from Swiss watches to expensive liquor slumped. Companies from Prada to Australia's Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. have reported slowing sales growth.

"It's understandable what the government did in terms of controlling what officials do or spend or receive -- it has to be done," said Bordiga. "The effect of the government curbs on extravagance is real, but we're not seeing it probably because we are lucky to be the last entrant and we're not really going for volumes."

Sales of high-end car brands were mixed in China last year, with Lamborghini, Bentley and Ferrari reporting fewer deliveries than in 2012, while Porsche, Maserati, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin saw expansion.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg project China's economic growth will slow to 7.4 percent this year and 7.2 percent in 2015. An expanding economy means opportunities will still exist for McLaren, Bordiga said. "There are always rich people getting richer, new people getting rich and each one of them wants to enjoy life," he said.

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