The UK can and should lead the way in lightweight vehicle construction, says Mike Flewitt.
With ever-more powerful supercars rolling out from Woking, McLaren is no stranger to the power race. But the racing team turned exotic automaker is calling for another kind of war to be waged: what it calls the "weight race." Speaking to an industry gathering in London this week, McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt said that the British automotive industry can and should be leading the way in lightweight vehicle construction – not only for the sake of performance, but environmental cleanliness as well.
"We now have a fantastic opportunity for the UK to be at the very forefront of a new automotive 'weight race' that can help achieve increasingly tough environmental targets," said Flewitt. "While McLaren has a long history in using lightweight materials to boost vehicle performance, it's something we are also heavily investing in as part of our future with the opening later this year of the brand-new McLaren Composites Technology Center in Yorkshire." McLaren certainly has the track record to back up the call. It was the first to use carbon fiber in Formula One, and the first to use it on a road car (in the legendary McLaren F1). And it still builds all of its cars around a carbon monocoque to keep them both stiff and light.
The company founded by Bruce McLaren is not the first British automaker, however, to embrace the value of lightweight construction. It's a campaign that was most notably waged by Lotus founder Colin Chapman, who famously summed up his approach to automotive engineering: "Simplify, then add lightness." "It is clear to us that to be successful in lightweighting, industry and Government need to continue to work closely to ensure we all capitalise on the benefits for the sector for the UK in general and also for vehicle owners who will increasingly demand more efficient products that deliver the driving attributes they expect," said Flewitt.