Currently reading: New McLaren boss: SUVs "very attractive" for supercar firm
In an exclusive interview, ex-Ferrari CTO Michael Leiters hints at plans for a more diverse lineup

New McLaren Automotive boss Michael Leiters is open to launching an SUV, and the firm is actively investigating what form such a model may take. 

Speaking exclusively to Autocar in his first interview since joining McLaren on 1 July, Leiters said he's keen to evolve the British brand's offering beyond purely mid-engined supercars. 

Autocar first revealed plans were under way for a McLaren SUV back in June, before Leiters officially joined the company, detailing that a new model could be on course to hit the market in the second half of this decade, with a price point expected to be close to £350,000.

It was also tipped to be a fully battery-electric proposition, not a hybrid, and be sold in a number of power guises, with dual or tri-motor, four-wheel-drive designs offering exalted performance levels likely to match the recently launched Aston Martin DBX 707, which is currently billed as the world’s fastest SUV.

And with Leiters’ overseeing the launch of two high-end SUVs during his career – the Porsche Cayene and most recently in his role as technical chief at Ferrari, where he led the development of the upcoming Purosangue – it's expected that McLaren may soon follow suit.

98 Mclaren suv autocar render rear quarter

“I developed an SUV at Ferrari,” Leiters said. “I developed an SUV at Porsche, so I love SUVs. But we won’t do it for me. Yet I think it’s a really important market. 

“It still is, and it continues to grow. It’s very attractive as a market segment.”

McLaren’s radical change of heart about crossovers is undoubtedly a result of the sales success of its rival performance brands, whose existing crossover and SUV models already heavily outsell their lower-slung models and generate most of their profits.

For example, Porsche delivered more cars than at any point in its 91-year history in 2021, with the Porsche Macan SUV and larger Cayenne together accounting for well over half of its 300,000 sales, while the Porsche 911 sports car accounted for just 38,464.

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96 Porsche cayenne front

It’s a similar story for the Lamborghini Urus SUV, which outsold the Lamborghini Huracán supercar in 2021 at a rate of around two to one.

The DBX made up half of all Aston Martin global sales in the same period, its first full year on sale.

“What we have to understand as McLaren is 'how can we find a product that is in line with our DNA?'. We shouldn’t do a classic SUV,” Leiters added.

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However, while Leiters is keen to create such a model, he insisted that it very much remains at the discussion stage and that McLaren is also open to other ideas and models instead of, or in addition to, an SUV. 

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An SUV would also have a knock-on effect to McLaren’s current range of models, said Leiters, as it would lead to greater brand awareness and acceptance. He said that at Porsche it wasn’t just 911 buyers going into the Cayenne; it was people buying a Cayenne and then going on to buying a 911 too.

Leiters conceded that there was overlap within McLaren’s existing range and that any new model it created couldn't cause further cannibalisation. That’s why the likes of an SUV are under consideration, rather than any front-engined sports cars or supercars, and why electric technology was so appealing as a new architecture allowed for McLarens of different sizes and proportions. 

Rumours persist around McLaren entering into a partnership with a major car maker, with talks with both BMW and Audi known to have taken place. 

99 Mclaren artura 2021 autocar images studio front edit 0

Leiters confirmed that McLaren was interested in working with a partner but said that no deal was imminent.

“You have two sides of a partnership, one is technology and one is financial,” he said. “And if you find both in one, definitely that will be the best. But the first thing is to have a technology partner to create synergies. But it has to be the right partner.

“We have to maintain our DNA; I'm not interested in any partner which gives me only 'me too' technology. So the question is to find the right partner; the question is not to find a partner.”

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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567 24 August 2022

Just No! Stick to supercars.

Scribbler 24 August 2022

Assuming that McLaren Automotive is still trading about five years from now, it would be very late to market with a high-performance BEV SUV/crossover. The price point mentioned is OTT.

macboy 24 August 2022

It's always interesting to see a new CEO focus on the future when the focus really needs to be on the present. It's like planning a house extension while it's currently on fire and uninsured. Question one is not will McLaren build an SUV but will it remain in business long enough to do it.

Bill Lyons 24 August 2022
macboy wrote:

It's always interesting to see a new CEO focus on the future when the focus really needs to be on the present. It's like planning a house extension while it's currently on fire and uninsured. Question one is not will McLaren build an SUV but will it remain in business long enough to do it.

My thoughts exactly. Herr Leiters seems to be sniffing the same adhesive as Thierry Bollore.

They've already sold the freehold to the factory to keep the lights on; their products have an unenviable reputation for shonky build quality and the formula 1 team have been languishing amongst the also-rans for several years. Somehow I don't think a sketch of a $350k suv is really going to solve their problems.