McLaren has chosen three UK dealers to sell its MP4-12C high performance sports car which goes on sale next year.
The new Woking-based manufacturer has set up an international network of 35 dealers to handle next-years launch and the UK locations are expected to be in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
There were more than 600 names on the original list which was whittled down to 300 before 150 were interviewed. Half went as far as submitting a business plan before the choices were made.
Very few know if they have been chosen as one of the partners for the small global network. The rest will be notified over the next six weeks and then the names will be known. HR Owen and Sytner could both be potential groups that would fit with the McLaren franchise.
McLaren plans to do things differently in the way that all brands do. But the intention is to make little fuss for the car in the showroom and lots of fuss for the owners.
Aftersales zone managers will be on-call 24 hours a day as well as ‘flying doctors’ who will fly anywhere in the world if an issue cannot be resolved locally.
The primary qualifications for dealers were financial strength, supersports experience, great CRM systems and “alignment with our way of doing things.”
Antony Sheriff, the ex-Fiat chief executive based at the Woking factory says that as soon as a car is delivered, a complete set of replacement parts will be delivered to that dealer’s warehouse.
“We want to be sure that our owners never, ever have to wait for a new headlamp. When they need it they get it.
“There is very little point in us beating ourselves up over the feel of a switch in the 12C if we have not taken the trouble to ensure that the owners are looked after.”
He says that the really important thing about setting up to supply and service a £160,000 carbon-fibre two-seater with drive train and handling modelled on the Formula One cars, is the relationship with the driver which could last 20 years if handled right.
Up to 1,000 12Cs will be produced in 2011 and will be distributed through a global network of dedicated McLaren retailers in all major markets.
The company said it is confident it has chosen the right dealer partners across the world but would not reveal what companies it has chosen to partner with in the UK.
David Lumley-Wood, McLaren head of network development, said: “There is no fixed template to the size and background of the retailers selected so far, except that all have outstanding reputations in serving the luxury sports car segment.
“We have groups and individual entrepreneurs; we have some of the largest organisations with multiple locations representing a large number of brands, contrasting with single operators in single sites.
“What is important is that each of these dealers will be McLaren Automotive’s eyes and ears across the globe – an integral part of our company: McLaren Automotive is not the car retailer – our partners are.”
The 12C is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.8 litre 90 V8 598bhp engine - the ‘M838T’ (the nomenclature stands for McLaren - 8 cylinder – 3.8 litres – Turbo).
The two-seat sports car will be produced at the new £40 million McLaren Production Centre in Woking.
McLaren Automotive will appoint a group of regional aftersales zone managers who will be available 24 hours a day to go anywhere within their region to help resolve any problems that might occur with the vehicle.
The next level of support will be the ‘flying doctors’ based at Woking who will fly anywhere in the world if an issue cannot be resolved locally. The ultimate support mechanism, and one established for McLaren F1 owners, is that McLaren is committed to bringing a car back to its UK headquarters if an issue cannot be resolved locally.
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Developing the dealer network
Antony Sheriff, McLaren Automotive managing director, said: “We were very aware that however well the 12C is designed, however meticulously it is assembled, and however rewarding it is to drive, McLaren Automotive objectives could not be met without a network of partners that shared our values. Especially an obsession for ultimate customer care.”
The company began planning its distribution strategy at the early stages of developing the new model.
Sheriff said: “We are now confident not only that we have chosen the right locations but also that we will have the finest group of partners in the sports car sector.
“We are stretching our small team to unprecedented levels, insisting that we visit all the potential retailer locations around the world. We are delving into their business plans and operations, meeting their service technicians, watching how they treat their customers; all to ensure that 12C owners get the very best treatment.
“There is very little point in us beating ourselves up over the feel of a switch in the 12C if we have not taken the trouble to ensure that the owners are looked after,” he concluded.
The network plan had four distinct phases – desk research, field visits, active dealer prospecting and finally, selection and training.
Having decided on locations, McLaren Automotive then looked at all the major businesses representing premium car manufacturers by visiting each city and understanding the environment.
“This was not just a plan to be run from the centre,” explained Lumley-Wood. “Our desire was to fully understand each market by being there; touching and feeling the environment, talking to dealers and customers. The aim was to physically understand what we needed in terms of a design for each dealership and the processes for building a unified McLaren team on the ground.
“It is vital that our preferred retailers absolutely behave in a way we call ‘fit for McLaren’ – they have to deliver on the tangible and intangible qualities that are commonplace at McLaren; great performance, high quality, reliability and passion. ‘Pure McLaren’ is not just about the car itself; it’s about providing a 100 percent McLaren experience. We therefore talked to a large number of key players in each city in order to understand the market opportunities and to identify how strong each was across a matrix of five key competences,” said Lumley-Wood.