When McLaren needed people for a second shift at its Woking Manufacturing Centre, HR staff began making recruiting arrangements fully 12 months before the start date, taking around 40 days to identify, assess, interview and judge the “cultural fitness” of applicants and then holding mass assessment days to check that people had the required dexterity and understood the rigours of the job. After the final choice, staggered dates were set over three months so new employees could be shown their jobs, trained, checked and finally inducted. McLaren is passionate about quality: no new employee begins unsupervised work unless they have repeatedly proven they can achieve the standard, and preferably displayed the passion of the rest.
McLaren’s rapid rise:
2010: New Automotive division is spun off McLaren Racing and reveals its first model, the MP4-12C.
2011: The 12C, as it became known, is generally well received but is plagued by niggly problems, like the self-developed Iris infotainment, and also concerns that the car isn’t exciting enough to drive.
2013: The P1, a high-performance hybrid successor to the F1, is launched, famously at the same time as rival hypercars from Porsche (918 Spyder) and Ferrari (LaFerrari). Incredible to drive, it also sells out, showing McLaren’s ability to credibly compete as a maker of £1m-plus cars.
2014: 12C is relaunched as the 650S, emphatically righting the 12C’s wrongs.
2015: New entry-level model, the 570S, is launched. So good, it almost makes the more expensive 650S feel suddenly superfluous.
2017: 720S is launched, instantly setting a new benchmark for supercars. McLaren also announces plans for a new carbonfibre production facility in Sheffield, and reveals record sales of 3340 cars, double 2015’s volumes.
Talking (and making) money:
Paul Buddin, McLaren’s chief financial officer, is a funny kind of accountant.
He drives a 570GT, has been to every McLaren outpost around the world, regularly goes to driving events and motor shows and even signs off the company’s new models. He’s a walking reminder that McLaren can only embark on projects that make money – and that’s a matter of getting price, numbers, build costs, development costs, standing costs and potential after-sales earnings correct and locked in. Get that stuff wrong and, however worthy, a car’s not worth making.
Buddin has been on the staff since McLaren started building its first cars in mid-2010, and still believes its rate of growth “feels like a normal company in dog years”. He presides over a department of 70 money- movers nowadays; when he started, it was 20. Early on, there was a point when the company owed £70m and had a turnover of just £6m to service that. “If I’d properly thought about the risk, I’d have found it quite stressful,” says Buddin, “but I was always confident about our prospects. Some people see my job as simply keeping score, but my view is that I’m part of the team so whatever happens is my responsibility as much as theirs.”