McLaren, the UK supercar maker, will stop developing petrol engines within a decade as it plots a long-term shift towards electric vehicles.
The company will focus on hybrid supercars for the next ten years, with a plan to source more components in the UK, but expects to cease any traditional engine development by 2030, chief executive Mike Flewitt told the Financial Times.
“We will be developing engines for the next ten years, selling for the next 15 years, but we expect a lot of the world to be aligning around the 2035 date [for a full shift to electric cars],” he said.
While manufacturers such as Volkswagen have detailed electric plans, McLaren’s strategy is one of the clearest timelines on electrification set out to date by a supercar group.
Rival Ferrari has given few firm details around its electrification plans, while Aston Martin this year delayed its electric-car programme to focus on motor racing under new owner Lawrence Stroll.
McLaren, which has a long racing heritage but has only been building road cars for ten years, would not launch a fully electric car until the second half of this decade, Mr Flewitt added, because of constraints on weight, performance and range.
“Ours is an enthusiast product. They will arguably enjoy the engine longer than commuter products,” he said.
The group has already made two hybrid models, the P1 and the Speedtail, but every major model launch from next year will be hybrid. It will use a new architecture that will allow the vehicles to drive for more than 30km using battery power alone, and plug in to charge.
McLaren said the proportion of UK-made components in its new models would rise to close to 60 per cent, the highest of any mainstream vehicle maker in Britain.
Several vehicle parts previously made overseas, such as gearboxes that were manufactured in Italy, will be produced in Britain for new models. The entire hybrid architecture was developed at McLaren’s new Sheffield centre, which it opened in 2018 to bring more work to the UK.
The increased use of UK parts will take the company above the 55 per cent threshold typically demanded of carmakers to pass “rules of origin” requirements in trade deals that enable them to avoid tariffs. Britain is in the process of striking trade deals with Europe, Japan and others to replace access lost by Brexit.
Like many automotive groups, McLaren has struggled during the pandemic as global sales have crashed. In May, it announced plans to cut 1,200 jobs, a quarter of its workforce. The group also raised £150m in additional debt.
Sales in China are already above levels reached before the pandemic struck, but the company’s overall car sales will be down by 40 per cent on last year, to roughly 2,700, as mainstream markets lag behind. McLaren will post a loss this year, while it may take until 2023 for the global luxury industry to recovery in full, Mr Flewitt added.
“It’s really hard to call. This is a discretionary product [that] customers don’t have to buy this week, you can wait till next week, and so a lot of people are waiting for confidence to return”.
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