It's easy to forget that in creating the MP4-12C, McLaren also created a new car company: McLaren Automotive. Setting up a production facility, supply network and a dealer network in addition to a new car that has to take on a rival as strong as the Ferrari 458 Italia is some challenge.
A year down the line, I paid a visit to McLaren's James Bond-style headquarters in Woking to see how one of Britain’s newest car companies is shaping up.
The order books seem healthy. More than 1100 MP4-12C coupés have been delivered through 38 dealerships in 22 countries. Three of those dealerships are in the UK – London's Knightsbridge, Warwick and Manchester – and the home market is tipped to settle as McLaren’s third biggest from 2013 after the US and Germany.
Indeed, more than half of all McLarens in the future are expected to be sold in the US, up from 40 per cent in the early days of trading.
McLaren ultimately aims for 70 dealerships, with the biggest market launch yet to come being China. And with McLaren’s stated aim being to sell 4000 cars a year following a new model launch every year until then, success in China will be essential in achieving that goal.
And now with the 12C Spider, dealers have a second model to sell. So far, more than half of the orders for the drop-top have come from existing MP4-12C coupé owners. The company says this is encouraging, because it shows the McLaren ownership experience is a positive one.
Others are buying Spiders in addition to the coupé and not trading in. But those coupés that are being traded in are currently being geared up to enter into a new McLaren Approved Used Car scheme that’s likely to be launched by the end of the month. Protecting residuals is McLaren’s latest challenge in starting a car company from scratch.
It’s British buyers who are ordering more 12C Spiders than any other market, the terrible weather of this summer clearly doing nothing to dent Britain’s love of open-top motoring.
As for production, McLaren is currently building around seven to eight cars per day at the McLaren Production Centre. Production peaked at around 11 cars per day at the start to meet launch demand, but is now expected to settle at its current rate after the Spider launch.
And the common MonoCell chassis that underpins both coupe and Spider means both can be built alongside one another on the same line at any ratio.
Who’s buying the MP4-12C? A lot are being bought to complement car collections, but there are those being bought for everyday use. Some American buyers are doing as many as 1000 miles per month in their MP4-12Cs.
McLaren buyers are also getting a say in how the current and future products develop. The recent round of revisions for 2013 to the MP4-12C – including the option for more engine noise to be played into the cabin and a button to release the doors in place of the current swiping system – were all born out of customer feedback. Maintaining this level of personal service is another challenge as McLaren’s volumes increase.
Perhaps the most interesting growth part of McLaren’s business is with its mysteriously named McLaren Special Operations. The department was responsible for maintaining F1s and SLRs but now has added customising MP4-12Cs to its job description.
The number of customers going beyond the standard option list has risen from an initial one in 10 to around 15 per cent now, but is expected to reach one in four by the end of the year. Requests have ranged from special stitching for the steering wheel to the installation of a coffee machine.
The £200,000 and above MP4-12C is now the norm as a result of the bespoke work of McLaren Special Operations.
So an eventful first 12 months. And the next? Spiders will be delivered before the year is out, and it’s highly likely the next McLaren we’ll see as part of the 'new model every year' strategy will be the F1 replacement, which has been regularly spied. Can this be the car to go one better than the MP-12C and topple a Prancing Horse?