McLaren on track to launch the MP4 in U.S. in 2011
By Julian Rendell
McLaren's plan to launch the 200-mph MP4 supercar in the United States and Canada in mid-2011 is on course, says the newly appointed boss of North American operations.
Tony Joseph, McLaren's regional director for North America, says rumors that the North American launch of the MP4 is being delayed are untrue.
“There is no validity in that story whatsoever,” he says.
Joseph concedes that McLaren did discuss the possibility of exhibiting at the Los Angeles auto show, which is held in December. “But L.A. was too early for our launch plan.”
The first MP4s will reach North American customers by May or June 2011, Joseph says. That's about six months after the first cars roll out of McLaren's U.K. factory.
Currently based in temporary offices in the Soho district of New York, the 41-year-old Joseph joined McLaren from Ferrari North America in June. He is building up a team of 12 to 14 people to run McLaren's factory-owned North American distribution operation. At some point next year, it will move to a permanent site.
“We're close to finalizing our dealer network and expect to start signing contracts for the first dealers around the first quarter of 2010.”
The dealer network will be eight to 10 strong in the United States, with a single Canadian outlet in Toronto. The network will expand in 2011 or 2012 with more sites in different cities. Target sites in the first part of the plan include New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Chicago, with second sites in Florida and the New York area.
Joseph and his team have whittled down a large number of interested dealers, established exotic specialists, to “two to three” favorites per site.
“We're not having any trouble recruiting dealers,” Joseph said. “Quite the contrary; we're having to carefully select and filter from a very strong list of businesses who want to represent McLaren.”
All will be multifranchise dealerships with a dedicated team of four McLaren staff at each--two on sales and two on service and aftersales.
Although the dealers will carry clear McLaren branding, dealers will have a free hand to source furniture and minor equipment to keep setup costs under control.
“We're being sensible and not going for a completely uniform look all over the U.S.,” Joseph said.
Sales in North America are expected to make up about 25 percent of McLaren's output. McLaren expects to build about 1,000 cars a year, putting 250 into the hands of U.S. drivers.
As McLaren adds model variants, output is expected to grow to between 4,000 and 5,000 cars a year, with about 1,200 reaching the United States.
As a former Ferrari sales boss in North America, Joseph is in a unique position to judge the likely demand for the MP4.
“There are plenty of enthusiasts in the U.S. who know F1 and the McLaren name,” he says.
Joseph said he wants to exploit the link with Formula One to sell cars, a different approach from his Ferrari experience.
“All the dealers who have seen McLaren's facility in the U.K. have been bowled over by the experience. You can see the F1 cars being built, and even Lewis Hamilton walking around the offices sometimes. The link is obvious and strong. That's very different from Ferrari, where the two sides are kept separate.”
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(Pictured, top: The first copies of the McLaren MP4 are expected to arrive in the United States in mid 2011; bottom: Tony Joseph sees McLaren having about 10 dealers in the United States and one in Canada.)
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