TORONTO — Despite the market pressures being put on premium automakers to offer SUVs, the McLaren brand will remain a holdout.
“I can easily answer that and say no,” said Mark Roberts, head of design operations for McLaren Automotive. “We really do deliver on the ultimate driving experience. For us, it means no compromise. An SUV doesn’t allow us to deliver on that. It’s not a no-compromise kind of vehicle.”
The comments were made during the inaugural luxury and supercar forum, a preview event held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in advance of the Canadian International Auto Show.
Three premium cars were featured: the McLaren Senna, the 500-unit production which has already sold out; the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the brand’s first SUV; and the Devel Sixteen, a $1.6 million supercar produced by a Dubai startup and being shown in North America for the first time at the Toronto auto show with its 12.3-liter V16.
Both Roberts and Alex Innes, head of coach build design for Rolls-Royce Cars, said that their brands are moving in the direction on fully electric powertrains. Roberts indicated that a McLaren battery electric vehicle is already in testing and development but said “it’s going to be a while before we release it as a production car.”
“It’s clearly part of our future,” Innes added. “It’s more than likely that we will skip the hybrid step in between, so that’s quite a bold future that we’re setting out on.”
Roberts said that McLaren is preparing to release 18 new vehicles between now and 2025. Given that the brand’s current production output is 4,500 units per year — or 20 to 22 per day — this presents a clear need for an increase in capacity.
"For a small company like McLaren, it’s a big deal and a big challenge,” he said. “It’s putting a big demand on [McLaren’s production facility] to step up to demand and build more volume.”
One of those new vehicles will be a successor vehicle to the McLaren P1, which was a plug-in hybrid sports car with a highly limited production run of 375 units that were built between 2013 and 2015.
“I can’t tell you when, but it’s coming up very soon for us on our design schedule,” Roberts said.
Toronto is one of the highest-volume markets for McLaren in the world, demonstrated by the fact that Woodbridge, Ontario’s Pfaff McLaren, based just north of the city, was named the brand’s global retailer of the year for 2017. Roberts says he has been surprised by the strength of the premium market in Canada.
“This is my first time in Canada,” he said. “It’s been a real education for me for the last 48 hours here. I didn’t realize how obsessive you guys are about supercars," he said. "You can’t even drive your cars for six months of the year, and you’re our best customers. It’s pretty phenomenal.”